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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Assessment of source and treated water quality in seven drinking water treatment plants by in vitro bioassays – Oxidative stress and antiandrogenic effects after artificial infiltration.

Oskarsson, Agneta; Rosenmai, Anna; Mandava, Geeta; Johannisson, Anders; Holmes, Andrew; Tröger, Rikard; Lundqvist, Johan


Drinking water quality and treatment efficacy was investigated in seven drinking water treatment plants (DWTPs), using water from the river Göta Älv, which also is a recipient of treated sewage water. A panel of cell-based bioassays was used, including measurements of receptor activity of aryl hydrocarbon (AhR), estrogen (ER), androgen (AR), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα) as well as induction of oxidative stress (Nrf2) and micronuclei formation. Grab water samples were concentrated by solid phase extraction (SPE) and water samples were analyzed at a relative enrichment factor of 50. High activities of AhR, ER and AR antagonism were present in WWTP outlets along the river. Inlet water from the river exhibited AhR and AR antagonistic activities. AhR activity was removed by DWTPs using granulated activated carbon (GAC) and artificial infiltration. AR antagonistic activity was removed by the treatment plants, except the artificial infiltration plant, which actually increased the activity. Furthermore, treated drinking water from the DWTP using artificial infiltration exhibited high Nrf2 activity, which was not found in any of the other water samples. Nrf2 activity was found in water from eight of the 13 abstraction wells, collecting water from the artificial infiltration. No genotoxic activity was detected at non-cytotoxic concentrations. No Nrf2 or AR antagonistic activities were detected in the inlet or outlet water after the DWTP had been replaced by a new plant, using membrane ultrafiltration and GAC. Neither target chemical analysis, nor chemical analysis according to the drinking water regulation, detected any presence of chemicals, which could be responsible of the prominent effects on oxidative stress and AR antagonistic activity in the drinking water samples. Thus, bioanalysis is a useful tool for detection of unknown hazards in drinking water and for assessment of drinking water treatments.


Bioanalysis; Drinking water; Effect-based analysis; Nrf2; Endocrine disruption; Aryl hydrocarbon receptor

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2021, volume: 758, article number: 144001

Authors' information

Rosenmai, Anna
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biomedical Science and Veterinary Public Health
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Holmes, Andrew
Kungälv Drinking Water Treatment Plant
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG6 Clean water
SDG3 Good health and wellbeing

UKÄ Subject classification

Water Treatment

Publication Identifiers


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