Altered reproduction in fish exposed to pulp and paper mill effluents: roles of individual compounds and mill operating conditions.
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For the last 20 years, studies conducted in North America, Scandinavia, and New Zealand have shown that pulp and paper mill effluents affect fish reproduction. Despite the level of effort applied, few leads are available regarding the factors responsible. Effluents affect reproduction in multiple fish species, as evidenced by decreased gonad size, decreased circulating and gonadal production of reproductive steroids, altered expression of secondary sex characteristics, and decreased egg production. Several studies also have shown that effluent constituents are capable of accumulating in fish and binding to sex steroid receptors/ binding proteins. Studies aimed at isolating biologically active substances within the pulping and papermaking process have provided clues about their source, and work has progressed in identifying opportunities for in-mill treatment technologies. Following comparisons of manufacturing processes and fish responses before and after process changes, it can be concluded that effluent from all types of mill processes are capable of affecting fish reproduction and that any improvements could not be attributed to a specific process modification (because mills normally performed multiple modifications simultaneously). Improved reproductive performance in fish generally was associated with reduced use of molecular chlorine, improved condensate handling, and liquor spill control. Effluent biotreatment has been effective in reducing some effects, but biotreated effluents also have shown no difference or an exacerbation of effects. The role of biotreatment in relation to effects on fish reproduction remains unclear and needs to be resolved.
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