Bioaccumulation and trophic magnification of pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors in a Mediterranean river food web

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Increasing evidence exists that emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals (PhACs) and endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) can be bioaccumulated by aquatic organisms. However, the relative role of trophic transfers in the acquisition of emerging pollutants by aquatic organisms remains largely unexplored. In freshwater ecosystems, wastewater treatment plants are a major source of PhACs and EDCs. Here we studied the entrance of emerging pollutants and their flow through riverine food webs in an effluent-influenced river. To this end we assembled a data set on the composition and concentrations of a broad spectrum of PhACs (25 compounds) and EDCs (12 compounds) in water, biofilm, and three aquatic macroinvertebrate taxa with different trophic positions and feeding strategies (Ancylus fluviatilis, Hydropsyche sp., Phagocata vitta). We tested for similarities in pollutant levels among these compartments, and we compared observed bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) to those predicted by a previously-developed empirical model based on octanol-water distribution coefficients (Dow). Despite a high variation in composition and levels of emerging pollutants across food web compartments, observed BAFs in Hydropsyche and Phagocata matched, on average, those already predicted. Three compounds (the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, the lipid regulator gemfibrozil, and the flame retardant TBEP) were detected in water, biofilm and (at least) one macroinvertebrate taxa. TBEP was the only compound present in all taxa and showed magnification across trophic levels. This suggests that prey consumption may be, in some cases, a significant exposure route. This study advances the notion that both waterborne exposure and trophic interactions need to be taken into account when assessing the potential ecological risks of emerging pollutants in aquatic ecosystems ​
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