WERF addresses endocrine disruptor concerns

The increasing incidence of "intersex" bass , male bass whose bodies are producing eggs, found in Colorado and West Virginia, is spurring scientists to seek research funds in order to study this alarming development.

The increasing incidence of "intersex" bass , male bass whose bodies are producing eggs, found in Colorado and West Virginia, is spurring scientists to seek research funds in order to study this alarming development.

The US Geological Survey found that 79% of 66 male smallmouth bass from the South Branch of the Potomac River and Cacapon River in West Virginia showed intersex symptoms. Upstream some 230 miles from the urban sprawl of Washington, D.C., this discovery surprised federal and state inspectors who regularly test local river water. However, scientists are now analysing water samples from the South Branch for "emerging contaminants," which include pharmaceuticals, hormones and caffeine.

Increasingly, researchers and scientists are linking these adverse environmental effects to endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), a group of chemicals that may affect the endocrine system in humans and wildlife. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set any standards on EDCs, so these chemicals are not tested for in most surface or drinking waters. Low levels of certain emerging contaminants could not be detected using past analytical methods, but advances in detection equipment and methods have recently improved detection efforts.

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) is working to provide answers to deal with this emerging issue in the field of wastewater treatment. Specifically, WERF research is looking at the fate of EDCs in wastewater in order to develop treatment technologies and analytical techniques, which can monitor EDCs in the products of wastewater.

EDCs can end up in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment systems, either through direct discharge into sewers or via stormwater run-off. WERF has initiated and contributed to several research studies investigating the occurrence of EDCs in wastewater effluent and surface water, analytical method development, and compound fate and transport through wastewater treatment processes. WERF research in this area is valued at some US$ 2.3 million.

Currently, WERF is currently a guidance document that will provide wastewater treatment plant operators with information on endocrine disrupting chemicals and their implications for facilities. For more information on this topic, visit the website: www.werf.org/Watersheds/EDCs.cfm or www.globalwaterresearchcoalition.net.

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