HEALTH SCAN: Scientists create new way to estimate estrogen in water supply

The effects on humans of estrogens excreted in the urine that washes into rivers and sewage systems is not certain, but environmentalists worry about harmful effects on male fish.

January 8, 2017 00:02
3 minute read.

Lab technician using microscope. (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers have developed a simple model for estimating the amount of natural estrogen from birth control pills in raw sewage and how concentrations change during wastewater treatment. The study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, provides a model for producing accurate data on estrogens, which is relevant for regulators, environmental scientists and wastewater.

Doctoral student Pniela Dotan and Dr. Shai Arnon of BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research and Prof. Alon Tal of BGU’s Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research based their results on data from 61 wastewater plants published in previous reports.

To develop their model, they considered information collected from various publications about biochemical oxygen demand (the amount of dissolved oxygen that must be present in water for microorganisms to decompose organic matter), natural estrogen concentrations, and discharges of raw sewage to wastewater treatment plants.

The effects on humans of estrogens excreted in the urine that washes into rivers and sewage systems is not certain, but environmentalists worry about harmful effects on male fish that can reduce their sperm production and thus the number of fish produced for food.

“This new model can predict likely natural estrogen concentrations in liquid waste or sewage discharged into a river or the sea from simple information about flow and biochemical oxygen demand data at a wastewater treatment plant inlet, which are commonly monitored and available,” the authors explained.

“This application is especially valuable since current models rely on estimating the concentrations of natural estrogens in raw wastewater, and direct measurement of natural estrogens in raw wastewater can be practically impossible in many developing countries due to the lack of expertise and funds,” they continued.

The researchers’ model was shown to produce more accurate results than existing tools because it is based on a simple linear equation that plots the relationship between direct and indirect variables, as opposed to other modeling frameworks that require large datasets or census data.

The data are from a wide range of wastewater treatment plants from five continents and can be used for projecting concentrations of natural estrogens from a wide range of mixed domestic and industrial sources.

“The model should apply globally, as long as wastewater systems don’t contain significant contributions from industrial sources known for their high natural estrogen or biochemical oxygen demand content, such as dairy farms or food processing plants,” the researchers said.


With the toll injuries from electric bicycles rising, the Beit Loewenstein rehabilitation hospital in Ra’anana has for the first time invited parents and children to come for a workshop in the safe use of the wheeled vehicles.

The families will also meet hospitalized children who were injured on their electric bikes, meet with the head of rehabilitation and hear from a lawyer about parental responsibility for such accidents.

Dr. Sharon Shaklai, director of Beit Loewenstein’s pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation department, said that in a moment, the life of a youngster riding an electric bicycle can change completely and for the worse.

Kfir Levin, a teacher expert in riding two-wheeled vehicles, will give a number of recommendations such as how to brake properly, plan the journey and especially how to avoid accidents by suiting the speed to the conditions on the road and all its risks.

Lawyer Assaf Warsaw will explain to parents that if they buy an electric bike for children not legally old enough or responsible enough to ride one, they could be liable for very high sums from lawsuits.

The first workshop was held in late November and more will be scheduled.

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The Israel Cancer Association has boosted the number of information counselors who lecture in schools around the country on various subjects from smoking to healthful lifestyles. They include counselors in the Arabic language. The lessons are geared especially for youngsters in elementary and high schools whose constant use of smartphones has enabled them to read and process visual information rapidly.

Dr. Avital Pato Ben-Ari, who is involved in health promotion at the ICA, said that not all information to which this group is exposed is accurate, but they are willing to learn. The free lessons are covered by donations to the ICA, which does not receive any governmental funding. Principals and teachers who want the lessons can contact the ICA through its website at

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