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Key Literature for Emerging Contaminants

The USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program studied the presence of low levels of many organic wastewater compounds, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, hormones, and other wastewater compounds, in a network of 139 targeted streams across the United States.

Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999-2000: A national reconnaissance Dana W. Kolpin, Edward T. Furlong, Michael T. Meyer, E. Michael Thurman, Steven D. Zaugg, Larry B. Barber, and Herbert T. Buxton Environmental Science & Technology, 2002, vol. 36, no. 6, pp 1202-1211.

For several years, scientists have been working to determine why so many male smallmouth bass in the Potomac River basin have immature female egg cells in their testes - a form of intersex. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows that a high incidence of intersex occurs in the Potomac watershed at sites where farming is most intense and where human population density is highest.

A prevalence of intersex is not unique to the Potomac basin, nor is it unique to smallmouth bass. It has been documented in other wild fish populations including spot-tail shiners in the St. Lawrence River, white suckers in Colorado, shovelnose sturgeon in the Mississippi, white perch from the Great Lakes, roach fish in the U.K and Denmark, sharp-tooth catfish in South Africa, three-spine stickleback in Germany, and barbel in Italy. It has also been noted in marine and estuarine fishes in Japan, the UK and the Mediterranean.

At many of these places, it has been associated with known or suspected endocrine disrupting compounds in wastewater effluent, which are not removed during standard sewage treatment, and in runoff from farming operations. These compounds can include estrogen from birth control pills and hormone replacements, pesticides and fertilizers used on crops, and hormones from livestock operations. Intersex (testicular oocytes) in smallmouth bass from the Potomac River and selected nearby drainages. Blazer, V.S., Iwanowicz, L.R., Iwanowicz, D.D., Smith, D.R., Young, J.A., Hedrick, J.D., Foster, S.W., and Reeser, S.J. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, 2007, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 242-253.

Dr. Daughton and Thomas A. Ternes of the ESWE-Institute for Water Research and Water Technology in Germany brought the issue to scientific prominence in 1999. They noted that pollution research efforts had focused almost exclusively on “conventional” pollutants — substances that were known or suspected to be carcinogenic or immediately toxic. They urged researchers to pay more attention to pharmaceuticals and ingredients in personal care products — not only prescription drugs and biologics, but also diagnostic agents, fragrances, sunscreen compounds and many other substances. (NY Times, Apr. 3, 2007)

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment: agents of subtle change? Daughton, Christian G.; Ternes, Thomas A.. Environmental Health Perspectives Supplements (1999), vol. 107, no. 6, pp. 907-938.

C&EN recent report, Mar 2008

New York Times (April 2007)

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