Endocrine Disruptors


Recently, scientific evidence has alerted public health officials, environmental scientists and the drinking water industry that diverse classes of chemicals found in the environment can disrupt the endocrine systems of fish, wildlife, and possibly humans, resulting in measurable, adverse health effects. A number of researchers have suggested that declining sperm counts and increasing rates of breast, prostate and testicular cancers in humans may be due to estrogenic compounds found in the environment. Consequently, the U.S. EPA has deemed the study of endocrine disruptors a high priority. The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene’s Environmental Toxicology Department has been involved in many projects to examine endocrine disruptors in the environment, including:


  • The prevalence and significance of estrogenically active compounds in public water supply source waters and in industrial and municipal effluents impacting those source waters was assessed from 2000-2003. The data reported provided important information to the drinking water industry regarding the actual occurrence of compounds with estrogenic activity in a large cross section of both source waters and finished drinking waters as well as in effluent streams impacting these source waters. For more information, please see the following publications: Hemming et al. 2003, Drewes et al. 2005 and Drewes et al. 2006.
  • In 2007, the Environmental Toxicology Department began a project examining the presence, persistence and biological effects of natural and synthetic hormones that may be released into the environment from concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs). This research evaluated the fate and activity of these compounds and also explored whether CAFOs are an important source of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment:  DeQuattro et al., 2012, Havens et al., 2010.


Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS Assay)


The Environmental Toxicology Department along with the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene’s Organic and Inorganic Chemistry Departments examines the toxicity and chemistry of industrial aerosols, engine emissions, indoor and outdoor ambient air samples, as well as air particulate matter (PM) from environmental events like wildfires. Air PM samples are collected on a variety of filters, using a range of sampling methods that allow to assess an assortment of different environments. Air samples can be collected as different PM size fractions, subsequently extracted from the filters by aqueous extraction or with organic solvents. The toxicity of these extracts is then determined using ROS assays. For more information, please see the following publications: Sheesley et al. 2004, Landreman et al. 2008, Shafer et al. 2010, DB Wang et al. 2013, Heo et al. 2015 and Sijan et al. 2015.


Airport De-icer Runoff


The WSLH Environmental Toxicology Department has worked with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to determine the toxicity of airplane de-icing chemicals from runoff at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Dallas, Texas airports. Whole effluent toxicity organisms (fathead minnow, Ceriodaphnia dubia and algae) have been exposed to de-icing event samples that occur in the winter months. For more information, please see the following publications: Corsi et al. 2001, Cancilla et al. 2003 and Corsi et al. 2006 (3 publications).


Alternative Aircraft and Airfield De-icing and Anti-Icing Formulations with Reduced Aquatic Toxicity and Biological Oxygen Demand


Starting in 2007, with funding from the National Transportation Research Board, the WSLH collaborated with the University of South Carolina and others to characterize toxicity on aircraft de-icer and anti-icer formulations (ADAFs), including runway pavement de-icers. Using a toxicity identification process, the research team looked specifically at additives in these products which often cause most of the aquatic toxicity problems during runoff events. A second phase to this research involved formulating new, more environmentally friendly ADAFs using the information gathered from toxicity identification.


Fish Pathogens


Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) Testing is used to measure, predict and control the discharge of materials that may be harmful to indigenous aquatic life. Unlike most environmental analyses, the WDNR requires that receiving waters (the water body which the effluent is discharged into) be used as dilution water in WET tests in order to simulate the aquatic environment into which the effluent is introduced. In approximately 25% of the WET tests conducted by Wisconsin certified labs since 1990, a “pathogenic effect” (i.e., >20% mortality and high variability in the control) has caused failure of the receiving water controls during the fathead minnow chronic test. The expense of repeating tests and the risk of producing false data make it imperative to investigate the causes of this receiving water problem and to recommend procedural solutions. In 1998, the WSLH’s Environmental Toxicology Department began researching potential causes of this phenomenon and ways to eliminate it. For more information, please see the following publication: Geis et al. 2003.


Bioavailability of Trace Metals in Marine and Estuarine Harbors


The WSLH’s Environmental Toxicology Department worked closely with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Environmental Chemistry and Technology Program on a research project funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). The joint project focused on the fate and impact of trace metals (particularly copper and zinc) from DoD sources in harbors and estuaries. The labs assessed the chemical forms of copper and zinc present and took measurements of actual exposure in indigenous biota as well as laboratory-based bioassays with speciated metals. In addition, the labs identified sources of copper and zinc from DoD sources. For more information, please see the following publications: Tang et al. 2003, Tang et al. 2004, Tang et al. 2005 and Karner et al. 2006.