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
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 http://www.werf.org/pdf/04WEM6a.pdf.
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.