Endocrine disrupting compounds, pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the aquatic environment of China: Which chemicals are the prioritized ones?

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jun 10;720:137652. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137652. Epub 2020 Feb 29.


Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) have been of great concern as emerging contaminants of aquatic environment. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify top contaminants so as to allocate better management measures. A list of 77 pharmaceuticals, 20 personal care products (PCPs) and 36 EDCs that were frequently detected in Chinese surface waters was examined in this study. The reported chemicals were concentrated in the highly populated and industrialized areas of China (e.g. the Bohai region, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta). The concentrations of EDCs and PPCPs were closely related to human domestic sewage and industrial wastewater discharge, and they were generally higher than or at least comparable to most of global rivers. Based on the proximity between the medians of reported exposure concentrations and effect concentrations, the risk ranking results showed that EDCs, e.g. estrone (E1), estriol (E3), 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), and PCPs, e.g. triclocarban (TCC), triclosan (TCS), were deemed to represent higher risks to aquatic organisms across China, as well as the Northern rivers (including the Bohai region), Yangtze River Basin, and Pearl River Basin. Pharmaceuticals posed relatively lower risks to organisms owing to their higher effect concentrations. By comparison, the Northern rivers were hotspots where many chemicals were identified as posing greater risks than the Yangtze River Basin and Pearl River Basin. Fish was the most sensitive taxa to 17β-estradiol (βE2) and EE2, which was almost 100,000 times higher risk than algae and worms. Atrazine (ATZ) and galaxolide (HHCB), posed comparably higher risks to algae and worms. The results of this work provide a sound guidance for future monitoring and management of chemicals in China.

Keywords: Endocrine disrupting compounds; Freshwater ecosystem; PPCPs; Prioritized chemicals; Risk ranking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • China
  • Cosmetics*
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Rivers
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical


  • Cosmetics
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical