Fate, transport, and biodegradation of natural estrogens in the environment and engineered systems.Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Nov 01; 40(21):6537-46.ES
Natural steroidal estrogen hormones, e.g., estrone (E1), 17beta-estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and 17alpha-estradiol (17alpha), are released by humans and livestock in the environment and are the most potent endocrine disrupters even at nanogram per liter levels. Published studies broadly conclude that conventional wastewater treatment is efficient in the removal of 17beta-estradiol (85-99%), but estrone removal is relatively poor (25-80%). The removal occurs mainly through sorption by sludge and subsequent biodegradation. The long solids retention time in wastewater treatment systems enhances estrogen removal due to longer exposure and the presence of a diverse microbial community, particularly nitrifiers. In spite of the treatment, the effluent from conventional biological wastewater treatment systems still contains estrogenic compounds at a level that may cause disruption of endocrine systems in some species. Advanced wastewater treatment systems such as membrane processes remove the estrogen compounds mainly through physical straining of particle-bound estrogens. Another major source, which accounts for 90% of the estrogen load, is animal manure from concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs). Manure is not required to be treated in the United States as long as it is not discharged directly into water bodies. Thus, there is an urgent need to study the fate of animal-borne estrogens from these facilities into the environment. A number of studies have reported the feminization of male aquatic species in water bodies receiving the effluents from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) or surface runoff from fields amended with livestock manure and municipal biosolids. Estrogenicity monitoring studies have been conducted in more than 30 countries, and abundant research articles are now available in refereed journals. This review paper focuses on estrogen contributions by wastewater and livestock manure, their removal rate and mechanisms in an engineered system, and their transport and ultimate fate in an engineered system and the environment. The review aims to advance our understanding of fate, transport, and biodegradation of estrogen compounds and outlines some directions for future research.