Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are mainly discharged into the environment by wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and are known to induce adverse effects in aquatic life. Advanced treatment with ozone successfully removes such organic micropollutants, but an increase of estrogenic effects after the ozonation of hospital wastewater was observed in previous studies. In order to investigate this effect, estrogenic and androgenic as well as anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic activities were observed during treatment of hospital wastewater using three different effect-based reporter gene bioassays. Despite different matrix influences, sensitivities, and test-specific properties, all assays used obtained comparable results. Estrogenic and androgenic activities were mainly reduced during the biological treatment and further removed during ozonation and sand filtration, resulting in non-detectable agonistic activities in the final effluent. An increased estrogenic activity after ozonation could not be observed in this study. Antagonistic effects were removed in the biological treatment by up to 50 % without further reduction in the advanced treatment. Due to the presence of antagonistic substances within the wastewater, masking effects were probable. Therefore, this study showed the relevance of antagonistic activities at hospital WWTPs and illustrates the need for a better understanding about antagonistic effects.
Keywords: Advanced wastewater treatment; Antagonistic effects; Effect-based analysis; Endocrine effects; Micropollutant elimination; Ozonation; Reporter gene assays.