Chris Kassotis, University of Missouri
Chris Kassotis and his team found that atmospheric releases of BPA may create a concern for contamination of local surface water leading to human and wildlife exposure. Photo courtesy the University of Missouri.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) released into the air may pollute surface water nearby, leading to human and wildlife exposure, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Missouri and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) came to this conclusion after assessing water quality near industrial sites in Missouri that are permitted to release the hormone-disrupting chemical into the air.

"Recent studies have documented widespread atmospheric releases of BPA from industrial sources across the United States. The results from our study provide evidence that these atmospheric discharges can dramatically elevate BPA in nearby environments," said Chris Kassotis, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri.

Samples of water were taken near wastewater treatment plants and sites with reported atmospheric discharges of BPA. A number of "relatively clean" sites were also chosen, to serve as the control group.

Scientists analyzed the water for concentrations of BPA, ethinyl estradiol (EE2), an estrogen commonly used in oral contraceptive pills, and several wastewater compounds. They also measured the total estrogen and receptor activities of the water.

Overall, levels of chemicals were highest in samples with known wastewater treatment plant discharges.

However, results also showed that concentrations of BPA in surface water near permitted airborne release sites were well above levels shown to cause adverse health effects in aquatic species.

"We were startled to find that BPA concentrations were up to 10 times higher in the water near known atmospheric release sites," commented Don Tillitt, adjunct professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, and biochemistry and physiology branch chief with the USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center.

The findings suggest that atmospheric BPA releases may pollute local surface water and may represent a previously underestimated source of contamination, the researchers concluded.

The study has been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.