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Sediments are major sinks of steroidal estrogens in two United Kingdom rivers

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 00:02 authored by Mika PeckMika Peck, Richard W Gibson, Andreas Kortenkamp, Elizabeth M Hill
The occurrence of intersex fish in a number of European rivers has been attributed to exposure to estrogenic chemicals present in sewage treatment work (STW) effluents. To further understand the environmental fate of these contaminants, the estrogenic activity of effluents, water, and sediments were investigated both upstream and downstream of the major STW discharge in two United Kingdom rivers. Estrogenic activity, determined using the yeast estrogen-receptor transcription screen, of the major STW effluents on both rivers was similar, ranging from 1.4 to 2.9 ng 17ß-estradiol equivalents (EEQ)/L. Estrogenic activities of surface waters 1 km upstream and downstream of both STW inputs were less than the limits of detection (0.04 ng/L); however, levels of estrogenic activity in sediments were between 21.3 and 29.9 ng EEQ/kg and were similar at both upstream and downstream sites. Effluent and sediment extracts were fractionated by reverse phase-high-performance liquid chromatography, and estrogenic active fractions were further analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The major active chemicals in the two effluents and in the sediments were estrone with lesser amounts of 17ß-estradiol; however, at one site, a number of other unidentified estrogenic fractions were detected in the sediments. These results suggest that riverine sediments are a major sink and a potential source of persistent estrogenic contaminants.


Publication status

  • Published


Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry







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Department affiliated with

  • Evolution, Behaviour and Environment Publications


Highly cited paper (22 times July 07) was the first to develop methods to screen and identify estrogenic compounds in freshwater riverine sediments. Field survey and analysis designed by MP, paper written by MP and EH. Some chemical analysis by AK and RG.

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