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Comprehensive analysis of antagonistic endocrine activity during ozone treatment of hospital wastewater

Itzel, Fabian, Jewell, Kevin S., Leonhardt, Juri, Gehrmann, Linda, Nielsen, Ulf, Ternes, Thomas A., Schmidt, Torsten C., Tuerk, Jochen
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.624 pp. 1443-1454
activated carbon, active ingredients, bioassays, estrogenic properties, flame retardants, fractionation, hospitals, mass spectrometry, membrane bioreactors, ozonation, phosphorus, pollutants, screening, wastewater, wastewater treatment
To reduce the discharge of micropollutants, advanced wastewater treatment methods were investigated in the last years. Estrogenic effects were found to be reduced by ozonation. These activities are usually measured using genetically modified cell-based tests. As these bioassays are representing a sum parameter, also inhibitory effects such as antagonistic effects need to be further investigated as they are potentially reducing the detected activities. Therefore, a direct comparison of chemical target analysis and biological equivalent concentrations measured by bioassays is often difficult. To investigate the fate of antagonistic activities and their role in mixtures with agonistic activities, two hospital wastewater treatment plants were studied after different treatment steps. Thereby highly enriched samples were analyzed by a combination of bioassays with chemical target and non-target analyses. In order to achieve an in-depth characterization of the antagonistic activities a fractionation of the enriched samples was performed. To identify relevant compounds an effect directed identification approach was used by combining high-resolution mass spectrometry and bioassays. The results showed a high reduction for estrogene and androgene activities. However, a constant antagonistic activity after membrane bioreactor and ozone treatment was observed. A reduction of the antagonistic activity was observed after passing an activated carbon filter. The fractionation approach showed a specific finger-print of each sample of the different treatment steps. Hereby we could show that the composition of agonistic and antagonistic active compounds is changing after each treatment step while the overall measured activity stays the same. Using fractionation and the combination of bioassays the number of relevant features detected by chemical non-target screening could be reduced by >85%. As a result the phosphorous flame retardant TCEP could be identified as anti-estrogene active. Future research should be done to identify more antagonistic active compounds and potentially active transformation products after ozone treatment.