Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 36, pp 36712–36723 | Cite as

Natural and synthetic estrogens in leafy vegetable and their risk associated to human health

  • Muhammad Adeel
  • Muhammad Zain
  • Shah Fahad
  • Muhammad Rizwan
  • Asif Ameen
  • Hao Yi
  • Mansoor A. Baluch
  • Jie Yinn Lee
  • Yukui RuiEmail author
Research Article


Since the inception of global industrialization, the growth of steroid estrogens becomes a matter of emerging serious concern for the rapid population. Steroidal estrogens are potent endocrine-upsetting chemicals that are excreted naturally by vertebrates (e.g., humans and fish) and can enter natural waters through the discharge of treated and raw sewage. Steroidal estrogens in plants may enter the food web and become a serious threat to human health. We evaluated the uptake and accumulation of ethinylestradiol (EE2) and 17β-estradiol (17β-E2) in lettuce plants (Lactuca sativa) grown under controlled environmental condition over 21 days growth period. An effective analytical method based on ultrasonic liquid extraction (ULE) for solid samples and solid phase extraction (SPE) for liquid samples with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) has been developed to determine the steroid estrogens in lettuce plants. The extent of uptake and accumulation was observed in a dose-dependent manner and roots were major organs for estrogen deposition. Unlike the 17β-E2, EE2 was less accumulated and translocated from root to leaves. For 17β-E2, the distribution in lettuce was primarily to roots after the second week (13%), whereas in leaves it was (10%) over the entire study period. The distribution of EE2 at 2000 μg L−1 in roots and leaves was very low (3.07% and 0.54%) during the first week and then was highest (12% in roots and 8% in leaves) in last week. Bioaccumulation factor values of 17β-E2 and EE2 in roots were 0.33 and 0.29 at 50 μg L−1 concentration as maximum values were found at 50 μg L−1 rather than 500 and 2000 in all observed plant tissues. Similar trend was noticed in roots than leaves for bioconcentration factor as the highest bioconcentration values were observed at 50 μg L−1 concentration instead of 500 and 2000 μg L−1 spiked concentration. These findings mainly indicate the potential for uptake and bioaccumulation of estrogens in lettuce plants. Overall, the estrogen contents in lettuce were compared to the FAO/WHO recommended toxic level and were found to be higher than the toxic level which is of serious concern to the public health. This analytical procedure may aid in future studies on risks associated with uptake of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in lettuce plants.


Bioaccumulation EE2 17β-E2 Lettuce plants Plant uptake 

Supplementary material

11356_2018_3588_MOESM1_ESM.docx (45 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 44 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Muhammad Adeel
    • 1
  • Muhammad Zain
    • 2
  • Shah Fahad
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Muhammad Rizwan
    • 6
  • Asif Ameen
    • 7
    • 8
  • Hao Yi
    • 1
  • Mansoor A. Baluch
    • 9
  • Jie Yinn Lee
    • 10
  • Yukui Rui
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Beijing Key Laboratory of Farmland Soil Pollution Prevention and Remediation, College of Resources and Environmental SciencesChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Crop Water Use and Regulation, Ministry of Agriculture, Farmland Irrigation Research InstituteChinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS)XinxiangPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.College of Plant Science and TechnologyHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanChina
  4. 4.Department of AgricultureThe University of SwabiSwabiPakistan
  5. 5.College of Life ScienceLinyi UniversityLinyiChina
  6. 6.Microelement Research Center, College of Resources and EnvironmentHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  7. 7.College of Agronomy and BiotechnologyChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  8. 8.Department of Agronomy, Faculty of AgricultureGomal UniversityDera Ismail KhanPakistan
  9. 9.University of Engineering and TechnologyTaxilaPakistan
  10. 10.Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ITBC)University of Malaysia SabahKota KinabaluMalaysia

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