Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom


Partitioning, bioavailability and effects of oestrogens and xeno-oestrogens in the aquatic environment

W.J.  Langston a1c1, G.R.  Burt a1, B.S.  Chesman a1 and C.H.  Vane a2
a1 Marine Biological Association, Citadel Hill, Plymouth, PL1 2PB, UK
a2 British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG, UK

Article author query
langston wj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
burt gr   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
chesman bs   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
vane ch   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This review provides insights into the distribution and impact of oestrogens and xeno-oestrogens in the aquatic environment and highlights some significant knowledge gaps in our understanding of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Key areas of uncertainty in the assessment of risk include the role of estuarine sediments in mediating the fate and bioavailability of environmental (xeno)oestrogens (notably their transfer to benthic organisms and estuarine food chains), together with evidence for endocrine disruption in invertebrate populations.

Emphasis is placed on using published information to interpret the behaviour and effects of a small number of ‘model compounds’ thought to contribute to oestrogenic effects in nature; namely, the natural steroid 17β-oestradiol (E2) and the synthetic hormone 17α-ethinyloestradiol (EE2), together with the alkylphenols octyl- and nonyl-phenol (OP, NP) as oestrogen mimics. Individual sections of the review are devoted to sources and concentrations of (xeno)oestrogens in waterways, sediment partitioning and persistence, bioaccumulation rates and routes, assays and biomarkers of oestrogenicity, and, finally, a synopsis of reproductive and ecological effects in aquatic species.

(Received October 21 2004)
(Accepted January 19 2005)

c1 e-mail: