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Title: Fate of conjugated natural and synthetic steroid estrogens in crude sewage and activated sludge batch studies
Authors: Scrimshaw, MD
Lester, JN
Keywords: Steroid;Conjugate;Activated sludge;Sewage;Fate
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: American Chemical Society
Citation: Environmental Science & Technology, 43(10), 3612 - 3618, 2009
Abstract: Steroids are excreted from the human body in the conjugated form but are present in sewage influent and effluent as the free steroid, the major source of estrogenic activity observed in water courses. The fate of sulfate and glucuronide conjugated steroid estrogens was investigated in batch studies using activated sludge grown on synthetic sewage in a laboratory-scale Husmann simulation and crude sewage from the field. A clear distinction between the fate of sulfate and glucuronide conjugates was observed in both matrices, with sulfated conjugates proving more recalcitrant and glucuronide deconjugation preferential in crude sewage. For each conjugate, the free steroid was observed in the biotic samples. The degree of free steroid formation was dependent on the conjugate moiety, favoring the glucuronide. Subsequent degradation of the free steroid (and sorption to the activated sludge solid phase) was evaluated. Deconjugation followed the first order reaction rate with rate constants for 17α-ethinylestradiol 3-glucuronide, estriol 16α-glucuronide, and estrone 3-glucuronide determined as 0.32, 0.24, and 0.35 h respectively. The activated sludge solid retention time over the range of 3−9 days had 74 to 94% of sulfate conjugates remaining after 8 h. In contrast, a correlation between increasing temperature and decreasing 17α-ethinylestradiol 3-glucuronide concentrations in the activated sludge observed no conjugate present in the AS following 8 h at 22 °C Based on these batch studies and literature excretion profiles, a hypothesis is presented on which steroids and what form (glucuronide, sulfate, or free) will likely enter the sewage treatment plant.
Description: This document is the unedited author's version of a Submitted Work that was subsequently accepted for publication in Environmental Science & Technology, copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review. To access the final edited and published work see
ISSN: 0013-936X
Appears in Collections:Environment
Institute for the Environment

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