Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 18, pp 10970–10982 | Cite as

Europe-wide survey of estrogenicity in wastewater treatment plant effluents: the need for the effect-based monitoring

  • Barbora Jarošová
  • Anita Erseková
  • Klára Hilscherová
  • Robert Loos
  • Bernd M. Gawlik
  • John P. Giesy
  • Ludek Bláha
Research Article


A pan-European monitoring campaign of the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents was conducted to obtain a concise picture on a broad range of pollutants including estrogenic compounds. Snapshot samples from 75 WWTP effluents were collected and analysed for concentrations of 150 polar organic and 20 inorganic compounds as well as estrogenicity using the MVLN reporter gene assay. The effect-based assessment determined estrogenicity in 27 of 75 samples tested with the concentrations ranging from 0.53 to 17.9 ng/L of 17-beta-estradiol equivalents (EEQ). Approximately one third of municipal WWTP effluents contained EEQ greater than 0.5 ng/L EEQ, which confirmed the importance of cities as the major contamination source. Beside municipal WWTPs, some treated industrial wastewaters also exhibited detectable EEQ, indicating the importance to investigate phytoestrogens released from plant processing factories. No steroid estrogens were detected in any of the samples by instrumental methods above their limits of quantification of 10 ng/L, and none of the other analysed classes of chemicals showed correlation with detected EEQs. The study demonstrates the need of effect-based monitoring to assess certain classes of contaminants such as estrogens, which are known to occur at low concentrations being of serious toxicological concern for aquatic biota.


In vitro bioassay Monitoring Sewage Rivers Hormones EDCs Endocrine disruptors 







Maximal response of standard ligand - E2




17β-Estradiol equivalents


High-density polyethylene


Limit of detection


Limit of quantification






Predicted no-effect concentrations


Pharmaceuticals and personal care products


Perfluoroalkyl substances


Wastewater treatment plant


Yeast estrogen screen



The research was supported by the Czech Ministry of Education (LO1214) and by the project of the European Social Fund in the Czech Republic (OPVK programme, CZ.1.07/2.3.00/20.0053). The authors acknowledge support from numerous persons at various wastewater treatment plants who contributed to the success of the study. The provided single samples are insufficient to make any statement on the efficiency of the water treatment process. Prof. Giesy was supported by the Canada Research Chair program, a Visiting Distinguished Professorship in the Department of Biology and Chemistry and State Key Laboratory in Marine Pollution, City University of Hong Kong, the 2012 “High Level Foreign Experts” (#GDW20123200120) program, funded by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, the People’s Republic of China to Nanjing University and the Einstein Professor Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The authors are also grateful to the anonymous reviewer for valuable comments and recommendations and to Mr. Matthew Nicholls for reviewing English during preparation of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11356_2014_3056_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbora Jarošová
    • 1
  • Anita Erseková
    • 1
  • Klára Hilscherová
    • 1
  • Robert Loos
    • 2
  • Bernd M. Gawlik
    • 2
  • John P. Giesy
    • 3
  • Ludek Bláha
    • 1
  1. 1.RECETOX, Faculty of ScienceMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Unit H 01-Water Resources Unit, DG Joint Research Centre (JRC)European CommissionIspraItaly
  3. 3.Department of Veterinary Biomedical SciencesUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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