Endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs) are compounds which interfere with animals' endocrine systems. These chemicals, including natural (plant and animal) hormones, artificial (e.g. birth-control) hormones, and other compounds (such as DDT and PCBs) have been responsible for cases of so-called ‘gender-bender’ fish, frogs and crocodiles in addition to affecting the fertility of humans and other mammals.
Our work in this area has centred on the development of techniques for the detection and quantification of estrogenic compounds in agricultural, sewage and river samples in order to gain an insight into the means by which these compounds are introduced into, or removed from, the environment.
Other research foci include the application of multi-dimensional stable-isotopic approaches to determine the extent of bioremediation in contaminated land and groundwater sites (sites contaminated with solvents such as chlorinated ethylenes and pesticides such as hexachlorocyclohexanes).
This approach relies on the isotopic fractionation displayed during degradative processes due to the kinetic isotope effect; the more degraded a contaminant pool, the more enriched in heavy isotopes it becomes.
This enrichment can be used to gain information on the extent of site recovery without needing information relating to dilution and mass transport. The multi-isotope approach also allows source apportionment, so the parties responsible for pollution events can be identified.