Rapid loss of estrogenicity of steroid estrogens by UVA photolysis and photocatalysis over an immobilised titanium dioxide catalyst

Heather Coleman, EJ Routledge, JP Sumpter, BR Eggins, JA Byrne

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The presence of low levels of natural and synthetic steroid estrogens in the aquatic environment, and their biological effects on aquatic organisms, are presently issues of concern. In this study, we investigated the temporal removal of estrogenic activity of several potent and environmentally relevant steroid estrogens by photocatalysis over an immobilised titanium dioxide (TiO2) catalyst. We used a recombinant yeast assay to measure estrogenic activity, which provided detection limits within the reactor of 53 ng/l for 17beta-estradiol and 17alpha-ethinylestradiol, and 100 ng/l for estrone. Pseudo-first-order kinetic data showed that photocatalysis over titanium dioxide was equally effective at removing the estrogenic activity of all three steroid substrates in aqueous solutions (initial concentrations of 10 mug/l) with a 50% reduction in estrogenicity within 10 min. In control experiments without TiO2 catalyst, the rate of UVA photolysis of the steroid substrates varied, but was most effective with 17alpha-ethinylestradiol followed by estrone, and was least effective with 17beta-estradiol (0.42, 0.2 and <0.1 times the rate achieved with photocatalysis, respectively). The application of photocatalysis for the removal of steroid compounds within STW effluent released into the aquatic environment is discussed. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3233-3240
JournalWater Research
Issue number14-15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004



  • titanium dioxide
  • estrogens
  • photocatalysis
  • UVA photolysis
  • recombinant yeast screen

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