Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Estrogens from sewage in coastal marine environments.

By Shannon Atkinson, Marlin J Atkinson and Ann M Tarrant


Estrogens are ancient molecules that act as hormones in vertebrates and are biologically active in diverse animal phyla. Sewage contains natural and synthetic estrogens that are detectable in streams, rivers, and lakes. There are no studies reporting the distribution of steroidal estrogens in marine environments. We measured estrogens in sewage, injection-well water, and coastal tropical and offshore tropical water in the Pacific Ocean, western Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea. Concentrations of unconjugated estrone ranged from undetectable (< 40 pg/L) in the open ocean to nearly 2,000 pg/L in Key West, Florida, and Rehoboth Bay, Delaware (USA); estrone concentrations were highest near sources of sewage. Enzymatic hydrolysis of steroid conjugates in seawater samples indicated that polar conjugates comprise one-half to two-thirds of "total estrone" (unconjugated plus conjugated) in Hawaiian coastal samples. Adsorption to basalt gravel and carbonate sand was less than 20% per week and indicates that estrogens can easily leach into the marine environment from septic fields and high-estrogen groundwater. Of 20 sites (n = 129 samples), the mean values from 12 sites were above the threshold concentration for uptake into coral, indicating that there is a net uptake of anthropogenic steroidal estrogen into these environments, with unknown impacts

Topics: Research Article
Year: 2003
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central

Suggested articles


  1. (1999). 17β-Estradioldependent regulation of chaperone expression and telomerase activity in the marine sponge Geodia cydonium.
  2. (1993). 17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity of ovary and hepatopancreas of freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, in relation to ovarian condition and estrogen treatment.
  3. (1988). Adrenal glands alter the concentration of oestradiol-17β and its receptor in the uterus of ovariectomized ewes.
  4. (1979). Antiserum reactive directly to estrone sulfate.
  5. (1994). Biosynthesis of estrogen derivatives in the echinoid Lytechinus variegatus Lamarck. In: Echinoderms Through Time
  6. (1993). Coral reefs: present problems and future concerns resulting from anthropogenic disturbance.
  7. (1992). Detection of estradiol-17β during a mass coral spawn.
  8. (1997). Ecotoxicology of tropical marine ecosystems.
  9. (1986). Effect of external steroids on ovarian development in freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium lamerrii.
  10. (1981). Effects of oestradiol-17β on the ovaries of the starfish Asterias rubens.
  11. (1993). Estrogen as an environmental pollutant.
  12. (1997). Estrogenic activity in five United Kingdom rivers detected by measurement of vitellogenins in caged male trout.
  13. (1994). Estrogenic effects of effluent from sewage treatment works.
  14. (1999). Estrone and estradiol-17β concentration in tissue of the scleractinian coral, Montipora verrucosa.
  15. (1992). Evidence for physiological responses to estrogen in freshwater prawn,
  16. (1136). Gestational and lactational exposure of rats to xenoestrogens results in reduced testicular size and sperm production. Environ Health Perspect
  17. (2002). hormones and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999–2000: a national reconnaissance.
  18. (1998). Identification of estrogenic chemicals
  19. (1998). Identification of estrogenic chemicals in STW effluent. 1. Chemical fractionation and in vitro biological screening.
  20. (1980). In vitro metabolism of estrogens by isolated intestinal microorganisms and by human fecal microflora.
  21. (1969). Interconversions of estrogens and related developmental effects in sand dollar eggs.
  22. Investigation on the Relation between Cesspool Nutrients and Abundance of Hypnea musciformis in West Maui,
  23. (1978). Metabolism of androgens and estrogens by human fecal microorganisms.
  24. (2000). Responses of ovaries and testes of Lytechinus variegatus (Echinodermata: Echinoidea) to dietary administration of estradiol, progesterone and testosterone.
  25. (2000). Single and combined effects of heavy metals and hormones on lysosomes of haemolymph cells from the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis.
  26. (1974). Statistical quality control and routine data processing for radioimmunoassays and immunoradiometric assays.
  27. (1986). Steroid production and hCG binding by ram-induced ovarian follicles in seasonally anoestrous ewes.
  28. Steroids and evolution. In: Hormones and Evolution
  29. (1993). Subcellular action of estradiol-17β in a freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii.
  30. (1259). Sublethal toxic effects of cyanobacteria and nonylphenol on environmental sex determination and development in Daphnia. Environ Toxicol Chem
  31. (1995). The E-SCREEN assay as a tool to identify estrogens: an update on estrogenic environmental pollutants.
  32. (1995). The structural pervasiveness of estrogen activity.
  33. (1998). The top 200 drugs. Am Drug
  34. (1995). Universal assay of vitellogenin as a biomarker for environmental estrogens. Environ Health Perspect 103(suppl 7):9–15
  35. (2001). Uptake of estrone from the water column by a coral reef community.
  36. (1995). Vitellogenesis as a biomarker for estrogenic contamination of the aquatic environment. Environ Health Perspect 103(suppl 7):173–178

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.