Removing Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals from Wastewater: New Method Discovered

After reporting on scientific research findings concerning chemicals of concern for over a decade one thing has become abundantly clear: the overwhelming amount of studies have uncovered negative effects of various chemicals in our food, products, water and general environment.  For this reason whenever there are positive, hopeful findings concerning chemicals of concern we report on them.  Such is the case here. A team of scientists have uncovered a method for removing endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from our wastewater…

Lake Mead

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (including BPA, Triclosan, and Salicylic acid) as you may already know, can be found in many plastics and pharmaceuticals. They are known to be harmful to wildlife, and to humans in large concentrations, resulting in negative health effects such as lowered fertility and increased incidence of certain cancers. They have been found in trace amounts (parts per trillion to parts per billion) in treated wastewater, and also have been detected in water samples collected from Lake Mead in Nevada.

Study overview

In a new study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, DRI researchers Xuelian Bai, Ph.D., and Kumud Acharya, Ph.D., explore the potential for use of a species of freshwater green algae called Nannochloris to remove EDCs from treated wastewater.

Study methods

During a seven-day laboratory experiment, the researchers grew Nannochloris algal cultures in two types of treated wastewater effluents collected from the Clark County Water Reclamation District in Las Vegas, and measured changes in the concentration of seven common EDCs.

Study findings

In wastewater samples that had been treated using an ultrafiltration technique, the researchers found that the algae grew rapidly and significantly improved the removal rate of three EDCs (estradiol, ethinylestradiol and salicylic acid), with approximately 60 percent of each contaminant removed over the course of seven days.

One of the EDCs examined in the study, triclosan, disappeared completely from the ultrafiltration water after seven days…

Why should we care?

The scientists hope their research will draw public attention to the fact that treated wastewater is not 100 percent clean, and will also be helpful to utility managers as they develop new ways to remove untreated contaminants from wastewater prior to release.

“Most wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove these unregulated contaminants in lower concentrations, but we know they may cause health effects to aquatic species and even humans, in large concentrations. This is concerning in places where wastewater is recycled for use in agriculture or released back into drinking water sources.

-Dr. Xuelian Bai

What’s next?

The scientists are now working on a new study looking for antibiotic resistance in genes collected from the Las Vegas Wash, as well as a study of microplastics in the Las Vegas Wash and Lake Mead.

Study synopsis


Journal Reference: Xuelian Bai, Kumud Acharya. Removal of seven endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from municipal wastewater effluents by a freshwater green alga. Environmental Pollution, 2019; 247: 534 DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2019.01.075


Journal Reference: Xuelian Bai, Kumud Acharya. Uptake of endocrine-disrupting chemicals by quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis) in an urban-impacted aquatic ecosystem. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2018; 26 (1): 250 DOI: 10.1007/s11356-018-3320-4