Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine disruptors in water: Implications for the water industry

Shane A. Snyder, Paul Westerhoff, Yeomin Yoon, David L. Sedlak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

782 Scopus citations


For over 70 years, scientists have reported that certain synthetic and natural compounds could mimic natural hormones in the endocrine systems of animals. These substances are now collectively known as endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), and have been linked to a variety of adverse effects in both humans and wildlife. More recently, pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) have been discovered in various surface and ground waters, some of which have been linked to ecological impacts at trace concentrations. The majority of EDCs and PPCPs are more polar than traditional contaminants and several have acidic or basic functional groups. These properties, coupled with occurrence at trace levels (i.e., <1 μg/L), create unique challenges for both removal processes and analytical detection. Reports of EDCs and PPCPs in water have raised substantial concern among the public and regulatory agencies; however, very little is known about the fate of these compounds during drinking and wastewater treatment. Numerous studies have shown that conventional drinking and wastewater treatment plants can not completely remove many EDCs and PPCPs. Oxidation with chlorine and ozone can result in transformation of some compounds with reactive functional groups under the conditions employed in water and wastewater treatment plants. Advanced treatment technologies, such as activated carbon and reverse osmosis, appear viable for the removal of many trace contaminants including EDCs and PPCPs. Future research needs include more detailed fate and transport data, standardized analytical methodology, predictive models, removal kinetics, and determination of the toxicological relevance of trace levels of EDCs and PPCPs in water.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-469
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironmental Engineering Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2003


  • Drinking water
  • Endocrine disruptor
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Review
  • Treatment
  • Wastewater


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