Distribution of selected antiandrogens and pharmaceuticals in a highly impacted watershed

Water Res. 2015 Apr 1:72:40-50. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2014.11.008. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Endocrine disruption and high occurrences of intersex have been observed in wild fish associated with municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents in urbanized reaches of rivers around the globe. These reproductive effects have often been attributed to the presence of estrogen receptor agonists in effluents. However, recent studies have isolated a number of androgen receptor antagonists (antiandrogens) that may also contribute to the endocrine disruption observed at sites that are influenced by WWTP outfalls. This study aimed to characterize the spatial and temporal distribution of antiandrogenic personal care products (triclosan, chlorophene, dichlorophene, oxybenzone, 1-naphthol, and 2-naphthol), along with a herbicide (atrazine) and representative pharmaceuticals (carbamazepine, ibuprofen, naproxen, and venlafaxine) in the Grand River watershed in southern Ontario. Surface water sampling of 30 sites associated with six municipal WWTP outfalls was conducted during a summer low flow. Monthly samples were also collected immediately upstream and downstream of a major WWTP from August to November 2012. Atrazine was consistently found in all surface water sampling locations. Many of the target pharmaceuticals and triclosan were detected in WWTP effluents, especially those that did not nitrify. Under low flow conditions, the concentrations of triclosan and several pharmaceuticals increased directly downstream of the WWTPs then decreased rapidly with distance downstream. Chlorophene was either found at trace levels or below detection limits in the effluents while dichlorophene, oxybenzone, 1-naphthol, and 2-naphthol were not detected in any samples. Chlorophene was detected in surface water during the low flow summer period and once during the monthly sampling from August to November. However, the primary source of chlorophene did not appear to be associated with WWTP effluent. This study documents the spatial and temporal occurrence of several antiandrogens and pharmaceuticals in a highly impacted Canadian watershed. It supports previous observations that there is a diversity of contaminants in wastewater effluents and other sources that have the potential to alter endocrine function in wild fish.

Keywords: Antiandrogen; Endocrine disruption; Pharmaceuticals; Sewage; Wastewater effluent; Watershed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / analysis
  • Androgen Antagonists / analysis*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Geography
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Ontario
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / analysis*
  • Rheology
  • Rivers / chemistry
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Wastewater / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Purification


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Nitrates
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Waste Water
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Ammonia