Waterways May be Contaminated with High Levels of BPA Released into the Atmosphere

First Posted: May 19, 2015 11:18 AM EDT

Our water may be contaminated by hormone-disrupting pollutants. Scientists have discovered that harmful concentrations of Bisphenol-A (BPA) may have been deposited directly into rivers and streams by municipal or industrial wastewater.

"There is a growing concern that hormone disruptors such as BPA not only threaten wildlife but also humans," said Chris Kassotis, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Recent studies have documented widespread atmospheric releases of BPA from industrial sources across the United States. The results from our study provide evidence that these atmospheric discharges can dramatically elevate BPA in nearby environments."

In this latest study, the researchers assessed Missouri water quality near industrial sites permitted to release BPA into the air. Water sampling sites were selected based on their proximity to the Suerfund National Priorities List (NPL) or locations with reported atmospheric discharges of BPA as identified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The researchers then analyzed the water for concentrations of BPA, Ethinyl estradiol (EE2), an estrogen commonly used in oral contraceptive pills, and several wastewater compounds. Scientists also measured the total estrogen and receptor activities of the water. They found that concentrations of BPA were well above levels shown to cause adverse health effects in aquatic species.

"In addition, we were startled to find that BPA concentrations were up to ten times higher in the water near known atmospheric release sites," said Don Tillitt, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This finding suggests that atmospheric BPA releases may contaminate local surface water, leading to greater exposure of humans or wildlife."

The findings show that BPA is leaking into water supplies. This is especially important to note in areas of high population and may mean that new restrictions will be needed in order to better regulate the release of these chemicals.

The findings are published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

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