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Theoretical Mass Loading of Human Derived Estrogenic Compounds to Wastewater Collection Systems, its Relation to Population Growth, and Potential Source Control Measures to Reduce Impacts to Aquatic Biota in Receiving Waters

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Endocrine disrupting compounds, including estrogens from human sources, are among the microconstituents of concern that are present in POTW effluent discharges. Estrogen compounds are not consistently removed by conventional secondary treatment processes. Discharges of estrogenic compounds have been observed to cause feminization of fish populations downstream from POTW discharges. Sources of estrogen compounds observed in influent to POTWs include human excretion, from both men and women. Women of child bearing age excrete a higher concentration of estrogens compared to children, post menopausal women and men. The concentration of estrogen compounds in women's urine increases during pregnancy and for post menopausal women using hormone replacement therapy. Source controls such as collection of unused pharmaceutical products typically capture few products with significant amounts of estrogen compounds. Strategies to reduce the impact on fish populations from estrogens may be refined based on a better understanding of the relationship between the sources, POTW tributary population and receiving water characteristics.

A description of the forms of human derived estrogens by age, gender and other status, and a theoretical mass excreted is provided. A representative population characterization will then be defined to relate mass loading to population size. Discussion will be provided with respect to historic population growth and human waste disposal practices with respect to receiving streams. The implications of continued population growth with respect to impacts to aquatic biota caused by mass discharge of estrogenic compounds will also be described. Definition of the potential magnitude of present and future discharges allows definition of technical and policy solutions to mitigate existing and future impacts to the aquatic environment.

Keywords: Estrogen; estradiol; estrone; feminization of fish; loadings; population increases

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-01-01

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