Submitted to: Journal of Food Additives & Contaminants
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/18/2012
Publication Date: 3/1/2012
Citation: Maragos, C.M. 2012. Zearalenone occurrence in surface waters in central Illinois, USA. Journal of Food Additives & Contaminants. 5(1):55-64. Interpretive Summary: Zearalenone (ZEN) is an estrogenic secondary metabolite produced by certain fungi that commonly infest important cereal crops, such as corn and wheat. ZEN has been previously shown to leach from contaminated crops into nearby drainage waters. In this research we developed a method for detecting ZEN in waters at extremely low levels (ng/L or parts per trillion) and applied it to waters from lakes, rivers, and streams in central Illinois. ZEN was frequently detected, although at very low levels. These results suggest that natural toxins produced by fungi contribute to overall exposure from environmental estrogens, but that in most cases the contribution is likely to be small.
Technical Abstract: Zearalenone (ZEN) is an estrogenic secondary metabolite produced by certain fungi that commonly infest important cereal crops, such as corn and wheat. The ability of ZEN to move from contaminated crops to surface waters has been demonstrated previously. This article reports the development of a method for determination of ZEN in samples of surface waters, and the application of the method to detection of ZEN in waters in the central part of the state of Illinois over a 15 month period. The method uses a cleanup procedure based on tandem reverse phase disks and immunoaffinity columns, separation by liquid chromatography and detection by a combination of absorbance (photodiode array), and fluorescence. ZEN was frequently found in samples of waters from lakes, streams, and a slough (field ditch). Although the frequency of detection was high (32% above a limit of detection, 0.4 ng l-1), the levels found were exceedingly low, with the highest sample having 5.7 ng l-1. These results support the conclusion that toxins produced by fungi can contribute to overall exposure to environmental estrogens. However, these results suggest that contributions from zearalenone are likely to be low.