Steroids and SSRIs in Wastewater and EE2 Uptake in FHM

Elizabeth Ellen Wittenberg, California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo
Irvin R. Schultz, Battelle PNNL


Pharmaceuticals have been found in waste water treatment plant (WWTP) effluents and there are scientific studies that indicate at least some of these chemicals have adverse effects on fish health. Two groups of pharmaceuticals that currently cause concerns are natural and synthetic steroids and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Fathead minnows (FHM) are a common species of fish used for research and ethynyl estradiol (EE2) is a synthetic estrogen known to cause decreased fertility in fish. FHMs were exposed to EE2 for time periods between 0.25 hours to 144 hours in order to study uptake and disposition in this species. These results demonstrated that EE2 is rapidly absorbed by FHMs and distributed to target tissues such as the liver and gonads. These findings support the use of short-term exposure studies of WWTP effluents to assess the potential physiological effects on fish. The use of relatively short exposure times (e.g. 72 hrs) requires fewer resources and permits more WWTP effluents to be tested.