ABSTRACT: The occurrence of endocrine disrupting chemicals such as estrogens in raw urban sewage is well documented. By contrast, the presence of other steroidal activities in wastewater has been poorly studied, although they can cause undesirable biological responses in the environment. In this work, extracts of raw wastewater were tested for agonist and antagonist activities on estrogen, androgen, progesterone, mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors. We detected strong estrogenic activities that correlated well with the concentration of natural estrogens (estrone, estriol and 17β-estradiol) measured by chemical analysis. We also measured strong androgenic activities which were not due to estrogen receptor ligands based on the use of recombinant estrogen receptor α affinity columns. Several molecules with androgenic activities were identified in wastewater samples, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and epiandrosterone being the most abundant. However, they explain only a small part of the detected androgenic activity, as indicated by the comparison of the detected biological responses with the results of the targeted chemical analysis. Finally, we found that our samples also contained strong antagonist activities on progesterone, glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors. Very interestingly, we identified pregnenolone (the precursor to all steroid hormones in humans) as a major endocrine disrupting chemical which accounts for most of the anti-mineralocorticoid activities present in raw wastewater. In conclusion, this study demonstrates the occurrence of androgen agonists as well as other steroid receptor antagonists such as pregnenolone in raw wastewater. Further research is needed to assess the fate of such compounds during sewage treatment and their potential effect on living organisms.
Water Research 04/2012; 46(6):1912-22. · 4.86 Impact Factor