Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How estrogens persist in dairy wastewater

Date:
June 5, 2012
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Wastewater from large dairy farms contains significant concentrations of estrogenic hormones that can persist for months or even years, researchers report in a new study. In the absence of oxygen, the estrogens rapidly convert from one form to another; This stalls their biodegradation and complicates efforts to detect them, the researchers found.

Wastewater from large dairy farms contains significant concentrations of estrogenic hormones that can persist for months or even years, researchers report in a new study. In the absence of oxygen, the estrogens rapidly convert from one form to another; this stalls their biodegradation and complicates efforts to detect them, the researchers found.

Related Articles


The study, led by scientists at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, is the first to document the unusual behavior of estrogens in wastewater lagoons. The study appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Just as new mothers undergo hormonal changes that enable them to breastfeed, lactating cows generate estrogenic hormones that are excreted in urine and feces, said ISTC senior research scientist Wei Zheng, who led the study. In large "confined animal feeding operations" (CAFOs) the hormones end up in wastewater. Farmers often store the wastewater in lagoons and may use it to fertilize crops.

Federal laws regulate the flow of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from CAFOs to prevent excess nutrients from polluting rivers, streams, lakes or groundwater.

Environmental officials assume

that such regulations also protect groundwater and surface waters from contamination with animal hormones and veterinary pharmaceuticals, but this has not been proven.

Hormone concentrations in livestock wastes are 100 to 1,000 times higher than those emitted from plants that treat human sewage, and large dairy farms are a primary source of estrogens in the environment, Zheng said. Recent studies have detected estrogenic hormones in soil and surrounding watersheds after dairy wastewater was sprayed on the land as fertilizer.

"These estrogens are present at levels that can affect the (reproductive functions of) aquatic animals," Zheng said. Even low levels of estrogens can "feminize" animals that spend their lives in the water, causing male fish, for example, to have low sperm counts or to develop female characteristics (such as producing eggs), undermining their ability to reproduce.

Hormones that end up in surface or groundwater could contaminate sources of drinking water for humans, Zheng said. "The estrogens may also be taken up by plants -- a potential new route into the food chain," he said.

When exposed to the air, estrogenic hormones in animal waste tend to break down into harmless byproducts. But the hormones persist in anoxic conditions.

While conducting the new study on dairy waste lagoon water in the lab, the researchers were surprised at first to see levels of three primary estrogens (17 alpha-estradiol, 17 beta-estradiol and estrone) fall and then rise again in their samples. Further analysis revealed that the estradiols were being converted to estrone, undergoing the normal first step of biodegradation. But then the process reversed itself: Estrone was reverting to the alpha- and beta-estradiols.

"We call this a reverse transformation," Zheng said. "It inhibits further degradation. Now we have a better idea of why (the estrogens) can persist in the environment."

The degradation rates of the three hormones in the wastewater solution were temperature-dependent, and very slow. After 52 days at 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) -- an ideal temperature for hormone degradation, Zheng said -- less than 30 percent of the hormones in the solution had broken down.

The fluctuating levels of estrone and estradiols may lead to detection errors, Zheng said, giving the impression that the total estrogen load of wastewater is decreasing when it is not.

"We need to develop a strategy to prevent these hormones from building up in the environment," he said.

Researchers from the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture also contributed to this study. The USDA supported this research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wei Zheng, Xiaolin Li, Scott R. Yates, Scott A. Bradford. Anaerobic Transformation Kinetics and Mechanism of Steroid Estrogenic Hormones in Dairy Lagoon Water. Environmental Science & Technology, 2012; 46 (10): 5471 DOI: 10.1021/es301551h

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "How estrogens persist in dairy wastewater." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120605113723.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2012, June 5). How estrogens persist in dairy wastewater. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120605113723.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "How estrogens persist in dairy wastewater." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120605113723.htm (accessed February 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

The Amazon Keeps Its Green Thanks To The Sahara Desert

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) Satellite data shows the Amazon rainforest supports its lush flora with a little help from Sahara Desert dust. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fox With Horrifying Injury Rescued and Released Back Into the Wild

Fox With Horrifying Injury Rescued and Released Back Into the Wild

RightThisMinute (Feb. 25, 2015) This wounded fox knew what she was doing when she wandered into the yard of a nature photographer. The photographer got "Scamp" immediately in the hands of Wildlife Aid and she was released back into the wild in no time. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins