Report on EDCs finds wastewater treatment provides protective barrier

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) has released a report, Endocrine Disrupting Compounds and Implications for Wastewater Treatment, that summarizes the latest research on endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and provides an easily accessible primer on the endocrine system, the nature and sources of EDCs, their fate in wastewater treatment, and their potential effects on human health and the environment.

Included with the Technical Brief is a handy four-page Fact Sheet in Q&A format geared to the public that answers common questions concerning EDCs. It is available online free at

Both documents were prepared in response to concerns over the potential for EDCs to enter the environment in treated wastewater discharges and from the land application of biosolids.

EDCs, also known as hormonally active agents or endocrine modulators, are natural and manmade compounds that may interfere with (or disrupt) the normal function of the endocrine system in humans or animals. According to the report, no studies to date have effectively linked low concentration of EDCs in wastewater to adverse human health effects. In addition, no studies in the United States have definitively tied changes in fish populations to EDCs in wastewater treatment plant discharges. Some studies have found changes in fish populations, but it has been difficult to identify which factors may be the principal cause. Further study needs to take place.

In addition, the research summarized indicates that the most common form of wastewater treatment, primary treatment followed by secondary treatment and disinfection, can remove up to 90 percent of the most commonly found EDCs.

The Technical Brief provides details on the conclusions in the Fact Sheet and a listing of references and sources for additional information. The information in the documents is based on some three dozen publications; many of them review articles that summarize the state of the science on a particular topic as reported by more than 100 original research articles.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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