Sorption of steroid estrogens to soils and sediments

Zhiqiang Yu, Baohua Xiao, Weilin Huang, Ping'an Peng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Steroid estrogens at sub-micrograms per liter levels are frequently detected in surface water, and increasingly cause public concern of their potential impacts on ecosystems and human health. Assessing the environmental fate and risks of steroid estrogens requires accurate characterization of various physicochemical and biological processes involving these chemicals in aquatic systems. This paper reports sorption of three estrogens, 17β-estradiol (estradiol), estrone, and 17α-ethinyl estradiol (EE2), by seven soil and sediment samples at both equilibrium and rate-limiting conditions. The results indicated that attainment of sorption equilibrium needs about 2 d when aqueous estrogen concentrations (C Is) are 25 to 50% of their solubility limits (SWs), but equilibrium requires 10 to 14 d when the CI is 20 times lower than the SW. The measured sorption isotherms are all nonlinear, with the Freundlich model parameter n ranging from 0.475 to 0.893. The observed isotherm nonlinearity correlates to a gradual increase of single-point organic carbon-normalized sorption distribution coefficient (capacity) (KOC) as the equilibrium estrogen concentration (Ce decreases. At C e = 0.5SW, all three estrogens have log KOC values of 3.14 to 3.49, whereas at Ce = 0.02SW, the log KOC values for estrone, EE2, and estradiol are within ranges of 3.40 to 3.81, 3.45 to 3.85, and 3.71 to 4.12, respectively. This study suggests that, when at sub-micrograms per liter levels, these estrogenic chemicals may exhibit even slower rates and greater capacities of sorption by soils and sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-539
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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