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Globally, water resources are under constant threat of being polluted by a diverse range of man-made chemicals, and South Africa is no exception. These contaminants can have detrimental effects on both human and wildlife health. It is increasingly evident that several chemicals may modulate endocrine system pathways in vertebrate species, and these are collectively referred to as endocrine disrupting contaminants (EDCs). Although the endocrine-disrupting effect of water pollutants has been mainly linked to agricultural pesticides and industrial effluents, other pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are largely unnoticed, but also pose a potentially significant threat. Here we present for the first time in a South African context, a summarised list of PPCPs and other EDCs detected to date within South African water systems, as well as their possible endocrine-disrupting effect in-vitro and in-vivo. This review addresses other factors which should be investigated in future studies, including endocrine disruption, PPCP metabolites, environmental toxicology, and antibiotic resistance. The challenges of removing EDCs and other pollutants at South African wastewater treatment works (WWTWs) are also highlighted. The need for focused research involving both in-vitro and in-vivo studies to detect PPCPs in water systems, and to delineate adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) of priority PPCPs to aid in environmental impact assessment (EIA), are discussed.
Keywords: pharmaceutical, endocrine disruption, wastewater, sewage water