As opposed to effluents from chemical pulp production, very little is known about the endocrine potential of papermaking effluents. To evaluate the endocrine potential of biologically treated effluents from the main grades produced in Germany (fine, graphic and packaging papers), 16 samples were studied by means of the Recombinant Yeast Estrogen Assay (R-YEA). 10 samples were tested positive; seven of them were effluents from recovered paper processing mills. Possible sources of endocrine disruptors in addition to wood components include papermaking chemicals, paper converting chemicals, if recovered paper is used, and/or detrimental substances introduced by impurities in these chemicals. Six of the above samples were subjected to individual substance analyses to detect endocrinologically active or potentially endocrinologically active substances. Even though phthalate compounds were detected in concentrations between 0.46 and 2.36 μg/L, only two of the six samples were tested positive in the R-YEA, because the test fails to adequately detect this compound's class. Despite this drawback, the R-YEA will be used for further studies because of the great variety of potential endocrine substances present in paper mill effluents. In particular, mechanical and recycled fibre pulps as well as the constituents of chemical additives must be investigated in more detail.

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