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Urban Watercourses in Peril: Implications of Phthalic Acid Esters on Aquatic Ecosystems Caused by Urban Sprawl

Department of Civil Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Moratuwa 10400, Sri Lanka
Department of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda 10250, Sri Lanka
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(3), 519;
Received: 8 February 2019 / Revised: 5 March 2019 / Accepted: 8 March 2019 / Published: 13 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Water Quality and Ecosystems)
PDF [763 KB, uploaded 13 March 2019]


Urban sprawl worldwide warrants the use of large quantities of industrial and household products containing phthalic acid esters (PAEs) resulting in adverse impacts on the quality of aquatic life in urban watercourses. The presence of six PAEs (dimethyl phthalate (DMP), diethyl phthalate (DEP), di(n-butyl) phthalate (DBP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), and di(n-octyl) phthalate (DnOP)) in 22 shallow urban watercourses in Colombo and suburbs of Sri Lanka was investigated. The average concentrations of DEP, DBP, BBP, and DEHP in all watercourses varied between 2.5–265.0, 1.0–32.0, 61–108, and 12–165 µg/L, respectively. DMP and DnOP were below the limits of quantification (DMP-0.5 µg/L, DnOP-1.0 µg/L) for all watercourses. DEHP was the most abundant PAE in many watercourses. The significant factors affecting the ubiquitous presence of PAEs in watercourses are the inherent properties of each PAE, presence of industrial and household products with great potential for the migration of PAEs in the sub-catchments, and quality of the receiving water. The contamination levels of PAEs in most of the watercourses are alarmingly high, as evidenced by higher concentrations of DEHP and DBP than those of Canadian permissible levels for the protection of aquatic life (16 and 19 µg/L). This study was the first effort in Sri Lanka to investigate the presence of PAEs in urban watercourses. View Full-Text
Keywords: aquatic life; biodegradation; DBP; DEHP; endocrine disrupter; phthalate aquatic life; biodegradation; DBP; DEHP; endocrine disrupter; phthalate

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Jayaweera, M.; Danushika, G.; Bandara, N.; Dissanayake, J.; Gunawardana, B.; Manatunge, J.; Zoysa, K. Urban Watercourses in Peril: Implications of Phthalic Acid Esters on Aquatic Ecosystems Caused by Urban Sprawl. Water 2019, 11, 519.

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