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Chemosphere. 2009 Dec;77(11):1459-64. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2009.08.063. Epub 2009 Oct 31.

Detection of endocrine disrupting chemicals in aerial invertebrates at sewage treatment works.

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1
Centre for Conservation Science, School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK. k.j.park@stir.ac.uk

Abstract

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) constitute a diverse group of chemical compounds which can alter endocrine function in exposed animals. Whilst most studies have focussed on exposure of wildlife to EDCs via aquatic routes, there is the potential for transfer into the terrestrial food chain through consumption of contaminated prey items developing in sewage sludge and waste water at sewage treatment works. In this study, we determine levels of EDCs in aerial insects whose larval stages develop on percolating filter beds at sewage treatment works. We compare absolute concentrations of known EDCs with those collected from aquatic environments not exposed to sewage effluent outflow. Our findings document for the first time that aerial invertebrates developing on sewage filter beds take up a range of chemicals thought to be incorporated from the sewage effluent, which act as endocrine disruptors. For two synthetic chemicals (17alpha-ethinylestradiol and butylated hydroxy aniline), concentrations were significantly higher in insects captured around percolating filter beds than sites over 2 km from the nearest sewage works. A number of species of insectivorous bats and birds, some of which are declining or threatened, use sewage works as principle foraging sites. We calculate approximate exposure levels for a species of bat known to forage within sewage works and suggest that further research is warranted to assess the ecological implications of consuming contaminated invertebrate prey.

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