Down the Drain
Water pollution caused by cosmetic chemicals, cleaning supplies and plastics
» in Treated Wastewater
Down the Drain: » in Treated Wastewater
Even after sophisticated treatment, trace levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals remain in treated wastewater entering San Francisco Bay. Fish and other aquatic species exposed to these chemicals may develop reproductive and other health problems due to disruption of their hormone systems. Reducing the pollutants at the source is the most effective way to reduce the amount of pollution entering San Francisco Bay.
•We tested 3 samples of treated wastewater.
•We detected 4 of 5 phthalates.
•We detected bisphenol A.
•We detected triclosan.
Hormone-disrupting contaminants were detected in Treated Wastewater
(Water released into San Francisco Bay, parts per billion)
|Sample 1||Sample 2||Sample 3|
Phthalates in treated wastewater
Studies of wastewater treatment show that phthalates may pass through treatment facilities without degrading (Alatriste-Mondragon 2003; Fauser 2003; Marttinen 2003), contaminating treated wastewater released into surrounding streams, rivers, and oceans. We detected 4 of 5 phthalates in treated wastewater samples. Studies show phthalates are common contaminants of people as well as streams and rivers (Kolpin 2002; CDC 2005; Wolff 2007). Phthalates have even been detected in San Francisco Bay (Oros 2002).
Reducing use of products containing phthalates will help to reduce phthalates in wastewater:
- Use nail polish and other beauty products that do not contain "dibutyl phthalate" – read the ingredient label.
- Use personal care products, detergents, pet care products, cleansers, and other products that do not contain phthalates or "fragrance" in the ingredient list – "fragrance" commonly includes the phthalate DEP.
- Avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic.
- Avoid products made of flexible PVC or vinyl plastic. A few examples of these products include vinyl shower curtains and toys for kids or pets made of PVC.
- Reformulate manufactured products to eliminate use of phthalates.
- Health care workers and patients can urge their medical facilities to reduce or eliminate use of products containing phthalates.
Bisphenol A in treated wastewater
Studies of wastewater treatment methods show that bisphenol A (BPA) may pass through treatment facilities without degrading (e.g. Fromme 2002), thus contaminating treated wastewater released into surrounding streams, lakes, and oceans. We detected bisphenol A in 2 of 3 treated wastewater samples. Studies show BPA is commonly detected in people, and in streams and rivers (Kolpin 2002; Calafat 2005; Wolff 2007).
Reducing use of products containing bisphenol A will help to reduce bisphenol A in wastewater:
- Avoid eating or drinking from polycarbonate plastics. Alternatives include bottles and other materials made from glass, stainless steel, or polypropylene bottles labeled plastic number 5 on the bottom (translucent, not transparent).
- Cut down on canned foods.
- Reformulate manufactured products to eliminate use of bisphenol A.
Triclosan in treated wastewater
Studies of wastewater treatment methods show that triclosan may pass through treatment facilities without degrading (e.g. Samsoe-Petersen 2003), thus contaminating treated wastewater released into surrounding streams, lakes, and oceans. We detected triclosan in 2 of 3 treated wastewater samples. Research has revealed that triclosan is a common contaminant of people as well as streams and rivers (Adolfsson-Erici 2002; Kolpin 2002; TNO 2005; Wolff 2007).
Triclosan can also form a variety of harmful byproducts, including a form of dioxin (Lores 2005), chloroform (Fiss 2007), and methyl triclosan (Adolfsson-Erici 2002, Lindstrom 2002; Balmer 2004), under conditions typically found in wastewater treatment facilities. Dioxins and chloroform are linked to cancer in people (Lores 2005; Fiss 2007), while methyl triclosan is thought to bioaccumulate, or concentrate, in the fatty tissues of wildlife and people (Adolfsson-Erici 2002, Lindstrom 2002; Balmer 2004).
Reducing use of products containing triclosan will help to reduce triclosan in wastewater:
- Avoid unnecessary use of "antibacterial" products (read the list of ingredients). The American Medical Association recommends against using products with antibacterial ingredients in the home (Tan 2002). Studies indicate that households that use antibacterial products are no healthier than those that use soap and water and other typical cleansing products (Larson 2003; FDA 2005).
- If you use an antimicrobial skin disinfectant, use an alcohol hand rub instead of a product containing triclosan.
- Medical and veterinary facilities can switch to alternatives to triclosan-based disinfection products.