More evidence of unwanted muck in our muds…

25 January 2013

Research from Greece, announced by the European Commission, has found worryingly high concentrations of endocrine disrupting compounds in marine sediments.

Reduction and prevention of chemical pollution and subsequent harm to marine ecosystems is a key aim of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive #1. EDCs can enter the marine environment via sewage, industrial waste water or indirectly through watercourses. Once present in the ecosystem, EDCs often take a long time to decay and can cause feminisation, decreased fertility or reduced immune function in marine organisms.

The study site, the Thermaikos Gulf in Greece, is an extended coastal shelf with substantial input from three rivers. The area is commercially important as the Gulf hosts 85% of Greek mussel production. There are several potential sources of EDCs, including tannery wastewater, agricultural runoff and sewage, which are all discharged into the Gulf.

The EDCs with the highest concentrations across seawater, suspended particles and sediments were nonylphenol (NP) and NP ethoxylates, chemicals used in the production of detergents.

Staying with the detergent theme, here is some more unwanted news from University of Minnesota:

A new University of Minnesota study determined that the common antibacterial agent, called triclosan, used in soaps and many other products is found in increasing amounts in several Minnesota freshwater lakes. The findings are directly linked to increased triclosan use over the past few decades.

In addition, the researchers found an increasing amount of other chemical compounds, called chlorinated triclosan derivatives, that form when triclosan is exposed to chlorine during the wastewater disinfection process. When exposed to sunlight, triclosan and its chlorinated derivatives form dioxins that have potential toxic effects in the environment. These dioxins were also found in the lakes.

The research found that sediment collected from large lakes with many wastewater sources had increased concentrations of triclosan, chlorinated triclosan derivatives, and triclosan-derived dioxins since the patent of triclosan in 1964. In small-scale lakes with a single wastewater source, the trends were directly attributed to increased triclosan use, local improvements in treatment, and changes in wastewater disinfection since the 1960s. When UV disinfection technology replaced chlorine in one of the wastewater treatment plants, the presence of chlorinated triclosan derivatives in the sediments decreased.

The lack of proper attention to wastewater treatment since the 1960s is going to prove to be one of the biggest legacy problems contributing to the global water crisis!

In the lake with no wastewater input, no triclosan or chlorinated triclosan derivatives were detected. Overall, concentrations of triclosan, chlorinated triclosan derivatives, and their dioxins were higher in small lakes, reflecting a greater degree of wastewater impact.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *