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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 May 1;42(9):3407-14.

Reproductive disruption in fish downstream from an estrogenic wastewater effluent.

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Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, UCB 354, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


To assess the impact of an estrogenic wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent on fish reproduction, white suckers (Catostomus commersoni) were collected from immediately upstream and downstream (effluent site) of the city of Boulder, CO, WWTP outfall. Gonadal intersex, altered sex ratios, reduced gonad size, disrupted ovarian and testicular histopathology, and vitellogenin induction consistent with exposure to estrogenic wastewater contaminants were identified in white suckers downstream from the WWTP outfall and not at the upstream site. The sex ratio was female-biased at the effluent site in both the fall of 2003 and the spring of 2004; the frequency of males at the effluent site (17-21%) was half that of the upstream site (36-46%). Intersex white suckers comprised 18-22% of the population at the effluent site. Intersex fish were not found at the upstream site. Chemical analyses determined that the WWTP effluent contained a complex mixture of endocrine-active chemicals, including 17beta-estradiol (E2) 17alpha-ethynylestradiol, alkylphenols, and bisphenol A resulting in an estimated total estrogen equivalence of up to 31 ng E2 L(-1). These results indicate that the reproductive potential of native fishes may be compromised in wastewater-dominated streams.

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