Although effluent treatment systems within pulp and paper mills remove many toxicants and improve wastewater quality, there is a need to understand and quantify the effectiveness of the treatment process. At a combined news and kraft pulp and paper mill in northwestern Ontario, Canada, fathead minnow (FHM) reproduction and physiology were examined before, during, and after a short-term (6-d) exposure to 10% (v/v) untreated kraft mill effluent (UTK), 25% (v/v) secondary treated kraft mill effluent (TK), and 100% (v/v) combined mill outfall (CMO). Although UTK exposure significantly decreased egg production, neither TK nor CMO caused any reproductive changes. The expression of six genes responsive to endocrine-disrupting compounds, stress, or metals was then examined in livers of these fish using real-time polymerase chain reaction. In female FHMs, none of the three effluents induced significant expression changes in any genes investigated. By contrast, in males there were significant increases in the mRNA levels of androgen receptor, estrogen receptor (ER) β, and cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) upon UTK and TK exposure but no changes in ERα or vitellogenin (VTG) gene expression, whereas CMO exposure significantly increased the mRNA levels of ERα, VTG, and CYP1A. Together, these results suggest that kraft effluent before and after biological treatment contained compounds able to induce androgenic effects in FHMs, and that combination of kraft and newsmill effluents eliminated the androgenic compounds while inducing distinct and significant patterns of gene expression changes that were likely due to estrogenic compounds produced by the newsmill. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:430–439. © 2009 SETAC
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