Investigation of the estrogenic risk to feral male brown trout (Salmo trutta) in the Shannon International River Basin District of Ireland

Miriam A Kelly, Antoinette M Reid, Kathryn M Quinn-Hosey, Andrew M Fogarty, James J Roche, Concepta A Brougham
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 2010, 73 (7): 1658-65
The estrogenic potential of sewage treatment effluents and their receiving waters in the Shannon International River Basin District (SIRBD) of Ireland was investigated. An integrated approach, combining biological and chemical methods, was conducted to assess 11 rivers adjacent to sewage treatment plants (STPs) and their possible interference with the endocrine system of feral brown trout (Salmo trutta). Hepatosomatic index, gonadosomatic index, condition factor, histological (intersexuality) and endocrine (vitellogenin induction) parameters were assessed in a sample size of 10 at each location. The estrogenic burden was determined using an in vitro recombinant yeast assay containing the human estrogen receptor (YES assay). In addition, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) were quantitatively identified through a selection of pre-concentration techniques combined with chromatographic analysis at or near the selected locations. Chemical analysis of representative site samples identified phthalates and an alkylphenol in water and sediments in μg/L and mg/kg concentrations, respectively. There were no significant difference in somatic indices or the condition factor between upstream control and downstream test sites, and there was no evidence of reproductive alterations or the presence of intersex in studied male brown trout. However, raised vitellogenin (vtg) levels were detected in the blood plasma samples of male brown trout at 8 of the 11 sites. Significant levels were reported at 3 of the positive sites (p ≤ 0.05). In one particular location, vtg induction was observed in 100% of the male brown trout sampled downstream. These findings were supported by the YES assay, where estrogenic activity was detected in the same upstream and downstream sites giving 17β-estradiol equivalency factor (EEF) values of up to 2.67 ng/L. This study represents an integrated assessment approach, confirming the presence of estrogens in rivers of the SIRBD of Ireland, thus suggesting a cause-effect relationship to prolonged EDC-exposure in fish.

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