The Laurentian Great Lakes are a valuable natural resource that is affected by contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), including sex steroid hormones, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, and new generation pesticides. However, little is known about the fate and biological effects of CECs in tributaries to the Great Lakes. In the current study, 16 sites on three rivers in the Great Lakes basin (Fox, Cuyahoga, and Raquette Rivers) were assessed for CEC presence using polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS) and grab water samplers. Biological activity was assessed through a combination of in vitro bioassays (focused on estrogenic activity) and in vivo assays with larval fathead minnows. In addition, resident sunfish, largemouth bass, and white suckers were assessed for changes in
biological endpoints associated with CEC exposure. CECs were present in all water samples and POCIS extracts. A total of 111 and 97 chemicals were detected in at least one water sample and POCIS extract, respectively. Known estrogenic chemicals were detected in water samples at all 16 sites and in POCIS extracts at 13 sites. Most sites elicited estrogenic activity in bioassays. Ranking sites and rivers based on water chemistry, POCIS chemistry, or total in vitro estrogenicity produced comparable patterns with the Cuyahoga River ranking as most and the Raquette River as least affected by CECs. Changes in biological responses grouped according to physiological processes, and differed between species but not sex. The Fox and Cuyahoga Rivers often had significantly different patterns in biological response Our study supports the need for multiple lines of evidence and provides a framework to assess CEC presence and
effects in fish in the Laurentian Great Lakes basin.