Measuring endocrine disruptors in wastewater

Dealing with pollutants, such as endocrine disruptors, is an effective way to protect the environment. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that alter the hormonal systems and development of organisms exposed to them, even in small amounts. Doctoral student Julie Robitaille and Professor Valérie Langlois from the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS) are working on an effluent analysis tool to predict their harmful effects.

“There is interest in Quebec and around the world in finding ways to track endocrine disruptors. These methods could even identify where the contamination is coming from in a given area, whether it comes from agricultural, hospital, municipal or industrial environments,” explains Professor Valérie Langlois.

The pair of researchers are also working with municipal and industrial partners to monitor drinking water and wastewater to plan for potential infrastructure changes. Unlike many current techniques that test on fish, their method does not involve animal testing. Instead, their approach uses human cell lines, genetically engineered in the lab to be sensitive to certain hormones.

“When an endocrine disruptor activates the receptors of these cells, they emit a small light. This is how we determine whether wastewater could pose a risk to the hormonal system,” explains Julie Robitaille, doctoral student in water sciences. However, she says more research is needed to reveal how their cell findings translate to aquatic species.

The contaminating cocktail

The challenge of monitoring wastewater comes from the “cocktail” of endocrine disruptors it contains. “You can’t just look at whether each individual substance is present. You have to analyze whether the whole mixture has an effect, because these contaminants can have different consequences when combined with other chemicals,” explains the PhD student.

To test the effects of the pollutant mix, the researchers turned to bioassays, using the bioassays to measure the reactions of their cell lines when exposed to samples of wastewater, without knowing exactly which contaminants they contained. .

Robitaille used several techniques to demonstrate the effectiveness of this type of approach, one of which was to inventory all the tools available to regulatory authorities. She carried out this literature review in collaboration with scientists who are members of the Intersectoral Center for the Analysis of Endocrine Disruptors (ICEDA). The publication appeared in the 2022 special issue of the journal Environmental Research on endocrine disruptors.

Source of the story:

Material provided by National Institute for Scientific Research – INRS. Original written by Audrey-Maude Vézina. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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