A consortium of Austrian scientists (ARCEM) carried out a multidisciplinary environmental study on Austrian surface and ground waters including chemical monitoring, bioindication, risk assessment and risk management for selected endocrine disrupters: 17β-estradiol, estriol, estrone, 17α-ethinylestradiol, 4-nonylphenol, 4-nonylphenol ethoxylates (4-NP1EO, 4-NP2EO) and their degradation products, ocytlphenol, ocytlphenol ethoxylates (OP1EO, OP2EO) as well as bisphenol A. To obtain data representative for Austria, a material flow analysis served to select relevant compounds and water samples were collected monthly over one year at those sites routinely used in Austrian water quality control. The following results were obtained and conclusions drawn:
1. Chemical monitoring: As compared to other countries, relatively low levels of pollution with endocrine disrupters were detected.
2. Bioindication: In the surface waters under study, male fish showed significant signs of feminization and demasculinization (increased production of the egg-yolk protein and histological changes of the gonads.
3. Risk assessment: For humans, exposure via either drinking water abstraction (ground water) or fish consumption was considered. The exposure levels of the compounds under study were below those considered to result in human health risks. Likewise, for bisphenol A and octylphenols, there was no indication for risk posed upon the aquatic environment (fish). However, nonylphenol or 17a-ethinylestradiol exposure along with results of bioindication (2) suggest a borderline estrogenic activity in a considerable number of surface waters. Consequently the emissions of these substances into the surface waters affected have to be reduced.
4. Risk management: Waste water treatment experiments revealed a positive correlation between the removal rate of endocrine disrupters from the waste water and the sludge retention time in the treatment plants. These substances are removed to a higher extend at low loaded plants designed for nutrient removal than at plants that remove carbon and/or employ nitrification only. As to drinking water treatment, chlorine dioxide and ozone were found to eliminate all investigated substances, except nonylphenol ethoxylates. (For the complete study see: www.arcem.at)