In a groundbreaking study, civil engineering researchers in the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology have discovered that certain industries may be a significant source of plant-based estrogens, called phytoestrogens, in surface water.
They also revealed that some of these phytoestrogens can be removed through standard wastewater treatment, but in some cases, the compounds remain at levels that may be damaging to fish.
Civil engineering associate professor Paige Novak and her graduate student researcher Mark Lundgren studied wastewater streams from 19 different industrial sites in Minnesota and Iowa and analyzed them for six phytoestrogens.
They found very high concentrations of these hormone-mimicking phytoestrogens -- up to 250 times higher than the level at which feminization of fish has been seen in other research -- in the wastewater discharged from eight industrial sites, including biodiesel plants, a soy milk factory, a barbecue meat processing facility and a dairy. They also detected high concentrations of phytoestrogens in the water discharged by some municipal wastewater treatment plants.
The good news is that the researchers revealed that phytoestrogens can be removed from water as it goes through standard treatment. In fact, they saw more than 90 percent removal of these compounds from the water. Unfortunately, sometimes 99 percent removal is needed to reach levels that are considered harmless to fish.
Plant-based phytoestrogens are naturally occurring but have been shown to function as hormone mimics and alter development and reproductive patterns in fish. These effects include decreased aggression, immunosuppression, and decreased testosterone production. Other estrogens that cause similar effects have been linked to population-level collapse in fish, Novak said.
"Many people have looked at human-related chemicals such as those in birth control pills as the primary source of estrogens in the water supply, but they have not looked at plant-based estrogens from a wide variety industries," Novak said. "Our research is the first study of its kind to provide a snapshot in time of what is going on in these industries. We hope that it can be used in planning new industrial sites and expansion of current sites."
Novak pointed out that some of these industrial facilities are in small towns without sophisticated wastewater treatment plants. In these locations, there is potential for impacts on fish and wildlife, she said.
"Our nation needs to do some careful planning as we rapidly expand various plant processing industries," Novak said. "We need to include good wastewater treatment into our industrial plant designs. We also need to think broadly as we look for the causes of fish feminization in various streams, rivers and lakes, as well as possible solutions."
The research findings will be published this fall in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, an international professional organization dedicated to the study, analysis and solution of environmental problems. The research was funded by the Water Environment Research Foundation and the University of Minnesota's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA).
To read the entire research report, visit the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Web site at: http://www.setacjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1897%2F09-029.1
Patty Mattern | EurekAlert!
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine