Identification of estrogen-like effects and biologically active compounds in river water using bioassays and chemical analysis

Seung Min Oh, Ha Ryong Kim, Hye Kyung Park, Kyunghee Choi, Jisung Ryu, Ho Sang Shin, Jang Su Park, Jung Sick Lee, Kyu Hyuck Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The Nackdong River is the longest river in South Korea and passes through major cities that have several industrial complexes, including chemical, electric, and petrochemical complexes, and municipal characteristics such as apartment complexes. Along the river, the Gumi region has an electric industrial complex and an apartment complex that may be possible point sources of xenoestrogens such as phenolic compounds. To identify the causative chemicals for estrogenic activity in the river water of this region, bioassay-directed chemical analysis was performed. All samples from six sampling sites (an upstream point: S1; hot spot points: S2-1, S2-2, and S2-3; and downstream points: S3, and S4) showed estrogenic activity in the E-screen assay, with bio-EEQs (17β-E2-equivalent quantities) ranging from 25.35-677.15 pg/L. Samples from S2-2, the sampling point downstream of the junction of stream water, and domestic and industrial wastewater, contained the highest estrogenic activity. Since the bio-EEQ of the organic acid fraction (F2) of the S2-2 sample had the highest activity (823.25 pg-EEQ/L) and F2 may contain phenolic compounds, GC-MS analyses for phenolic xenoestrogens were conducted with the organic acid fractions of the river water samples. Six estrogenic phenolic chemicals, 4-NP, BPA, 4-t-OP, 4-t-BP, 4-n-OP, and 4-n-HTP, were detected, with the highest concentrations (I-EEQ) found in S2-2 (231.80 pg/L). Among these phenolic chemicals, 4-NP was the most potent estrogen (bio-EEF; 8.12 × 10- 5) and acted as a full agonist. Furthermore, 4-NP was present at levels (2.0 μg/L in S2-2) that can induce VTG induction in fish (>1 μg/L). In addition, we confirmed that river water (S2-2) significantly increased serum VTG levels in crucian carp (Carassius auratus) in a fish exposure experiment under laboratory conditions. Therefore, phenolic xenoestrogens, especially 4-NP, may be the main causative compounds responsible for the estrogenic effect on the Nackdong River.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5787-5794
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Oct 15


  • 4-Nonylphenol
  • Crucian carp
  • E-screen assay
  • Endocrine-disrupting effect
  • Nackdong River
  • Surface water
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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