The occurrence and estrogenic activities of steroid estrogens, such as the natural estrone (E1), 17β estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3), as well as the synthetic 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), were investigated in eight sampling points along the Langat River (Malaysia). Surface water samples were collected at 0.5 m and surface sediment 0-5 cm from the river surface. Instrument analysis of steroid estrogens was determined by UPLC-ESI-MS with an ultra-performance liquid chromatograph (Perkin Elmer FX15) coupled to a Q Trap function mass spectrophotometer (model 3200: AB Sciex). Steroid estrogen concentrations were higher in the Langat River sediments than those in its surface water. In surface water, E1 was not detected in any sampling point, E2 was only detected in two midstream sampling points (range 0-0.004 ng/L), E3 in three sampling points (range 0-0.002 ng/L), and EE2 in four sampling points (range 0-0.02 ng/L). E1 and E2 were detected in sediments from all sampling points, E3 in five sampling points, while EE2 only in one midstream sample (3.29E-4 ng/g). Sewage treatment plants, farming waste, and agricultural activities particularly present midstream and downstream were identified as potential sources of estrogens. Estrogenic activity expressed as estradiol equivalents (EEQs) was below 1 ng/L in all samples for both surface water and sediment, indicating therefore a low potential estrogenic risk to the aquatic environment. Although the health risks are still uncertain for drinking water consumers exposed to low levels of steroid estrogen concentrations, Langat River water is unacceptable for direct drinking purposes without treatment. Further studies of endocrine disruptors in Malaysian waters are highly recommended.
The effects of treatment processes on estrogenicity were evaluated by examining estradiol equivalent (EEQ) concentrations in influents and effluents of sewage treatment plants (STPs) located along Yeongsan and Seomjin rivers in Korea. The occurrence and distribution of estrogenic chemicals were also estimated for surface water in Korea and compared with seven other Asian countries including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Target compounds were nonylphenol (NP), octylphenol (OP), bisphenol A (BPA), estrone (E1), 17beta-estradiol (E2), 17alpha-ethynylestradiol (EE2) and genistein (Gen). Water samples were pretreated and analyzed by liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). The results showed that the treatment processes of Korean STPs were sufficient to reduce the estrogenic activity of municipal wastewater. The concentrations of phenolic xenoestrogens (i.e., NP, OP and BPA) in samples of Yeongsan and Seomjin rivers were smaller than those reported by previous studies in Korea. In most samples taken from the seven Asian countries, the presence of E2 and EE2 was a major contributor toward estrogenic activity. The EEQ concentrations in surface water samples of the seven Asian countries were at a higher level in comparison to that reported in European countries, America and Japan. However, further studies with more sampling frequencies and sampling areas should be carried out for better evaluation of the occurrence and distribution of estrogenic compounds in these Asian countries.
Steroid estrogens, such as estrone (E1), 17β-estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), are natural and synthetic hormones released into the environment through incomplete sewage discharge. This review focuses on the sources of steroid estrogens in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The mechanisms and fate of steroid estrogens throughout the entire wastewater treatment system are also discussed, and relevant information on regulatory aspects is given. Municipal, pharmaceutical industry, and hospitals are the main sources of steroid estrogens that enter WWTPs. A typical WWTP comprises primary, secondary, and tertiary treatment units. Sorption and biodegradation are the main mechanisms for removal of steroid estrogens from WWTPs. The fate of steroid estrogens in WWTPs depends on the types of wastewater treatment systems. Steroid estrogens in the primary treatment unit are removed by sorption onto primary sludge, followed by sorption onto micro-flocs and biodegradation by microbes in the secondary treatment unit. Tertiary treatment employs nitrification, chlorination, or UV disinfection to improve the quality of the secondary effluent. Activated sludge treatment systems for steroid estrogens exhibit a removal efficiency of up to 100%, which is higher than that of the trickling filter treatment system (up to 75%). Moreover, the removal efficiency of advance treatment systems exceeds 90%. Regulatory aspects related to steroid estrogens are established, especially in the European Union. Japan is the only Asian country that implements a screening program and is actively involved in endocrine disruptor testing and assessment. This review improves our understanding of steroid estrogens in WWTPs, proposes main areas to be improved, and provides current knowledge on steroid estrogens in WWTPs for sustainable development.