Assessment of bisphenol-A in the urban water cycle

Bruce Petrie, Luigi Lopardo, Kathryn Proctor, Jane Youdan, Ruth Barden, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern

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The plasticizer bisphenol-A (BPA) is common to municipal wastewaters and can exert toxicity to exposed organisms in the environment. Here BPA concentration at 5 sewage treatment works (STW) and distribution throughout a river catchment in South West UK were investigated. Sampling sites included influent and effluent wastewater (n = 5), river water (n = 7) and digested sludge (n = 2) which were monitored for 7 consecutive days. Findings revealed average BPA loads in influent wastewater at two STWs were 10–37 times greater than the other wastewaters monitored. Concentrations up to ~100 μg L−1 were measured considerably higher than previously reported for municipal wastewaters. Temporal variability throughout the week (i.e., highest concentrations during weekdays) suggests these high concentrations are linked with industrial activity. Despite ≥90% removal during wastewater treatment, notable concentrations remained in tested effluent (62–892 ng L−1). However, minimal impact on BPA concentrations in river water was observed for any of the effluents. The maximum BPA concentration found in river water was 117 ng L−1 which is considerably lower than the current predicted no effect concentration of 1.6 μg L−1. Nevertheless, analysis of digested sludge from sites which received these elevated BPA levels revealed average concentrations of 4.6 ± 0.3 and 38.7 ± 5.4 μg g−1. These sludge BPA concentrations are considerably greater than previously reported and are attributed to the high BPA loading in influent wastewater. A typical sludge application regime to agricultural land would result in a predicted BPA concentration of 297 ng g−1 in soil. Further studies are needed on the toxicological thresholds of exposed terrestrial organisms in amended soils to better assess the environmental risk here.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900-907
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue numberPart 1
Early online date5 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2019


  • Bisphenol-A
  • Industry
  • Plasticizer
  • River
  • Sludge
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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