Environmental Exposure to Estrogenic and other Myco- and Phytotoxins


  • Niccolo Hartmann
  • Marianne Erbs
  • Felix E. Wettstein
  • Corinne C. Hörger
  • Susanne Vogelgsang
  • Hans-Rudolf Forrer
  • René P. Schwarzenbach
  • Thomas D. Bucheli




Endocrine disruptors, Isoflavones, Micropollutants, Runoff, Trichothecenes


Zearalenone (ZON) is known as a very potent, naturally occurring estrogenic mycotoxin. It is one of the most prevalent mycotoxin produced as a secondary metabolite by Fusarium species growing on cereals such as wheat and corn. It has been studied extensively in food and feed products for decades but only rarely and somewhat by chance in the environment. We therefore elucidated its agro-environmental fate and behavior by conducting a series of field studies and monitoring campaigns. Specifically, ZON was investigated in plants, soils and drainage waters from wheat and corn fields artificially infected with Fusarium graminearum. In addition, manure, sewage sludge and surface waters were analyzed for ZON. Three main input pathways of ZON onto soil could be identified: i) wash-off from Fusarium-infected plants (in the order of 100 mg/ha), ii) plant debris remaining on the soil after harvest (up to few g/ha), and iii) manure application (in the order of 100 mg/ha). Our results show that these input sources altogether caused the presence of several g/ha of ZON in topsoil. Compared to this, ZON emission by drainage water from Fusarium-infected fields was generally low, with maximum concentrations of 35 ng/l and total amounts of a few mg/ha. Due to dilution, ZON concentrations dropped below environmental relevance in larger surface water bodies. However in small catchments dominated by runoff from agricultural land, ZON might substantially contribute to the estrogenicity of such waters. Apart from ZON, other natural toxins monitored in this study, such as the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol or the estrogenic phytoestrogen formononetin, emitted to and occurred in surface waters at considerably higher amounts. To date their ecotoxicological effects are largely unknown.




How to Cite

N. Hartmann, M. Erbs, F. E. Wettstein, C. C. Hörger, S. Vogelgsang, H.-R. Forrer, R. P. Schwarzenbach, T. D. Bucheli, Chimia 2008, 62, 364, DOI: 10.2533/chimia.2008.364.



Scientific Articles