The potential steroid hormone contribution of farm animals to freshwaters, the United Kingdom as a case study

Johnson, A. C.; Williams, R. J.; Matthiessen, P.. 2006 The potential steroid hormone contribution of farm animals to freshwaters, the United Kingdom as a case study. Science of the Total Environment, 362 (1-3). 166-178.

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The combined farm animal population is considerably larger than the human one in the United Kingdom, implying a possibly important contribution to the environmental load of steroid hormones entering water. To make comparisons on the amount of steroid hormones produced by the different livestock, information was gathered on the structure of the UK farm animal populations and the amount of hormones excreted by animals at each of their life stages. An individual normalised dairy cow excretes two orders of magnitude more, and a normalised pig excretes more than one order of magnitude more steroid oestrogens than a normalised human. In terms of excretion, the combined farm animal population (including sheep and poultry) probably generates around four times more oestrogens than the human population in the UK. The biggest contributor on the animal side is the relatively small dairy cow population. If steroid oestrogens behave like herbicides, in which a worst case loss to surface waters is around 1%, then it could be argued that farm animals are responsible for 15% of all the oestrogens in UK waters. When simulations were made with the MACRO pesticide leaching model, predicted concentrations for field drains failed to exceed 1 ng/L. The rapid biodegradation rates, and high sorption rates taken from the literature and used in the model suggested less than 0.001% of oestrogens would reach the field drains. This survey suggests that direct excretion of steroid hormones by animals into water courses, or discharges from farmyard drains, are likely to be more important sources of contamination rather than via normal agricultural scenarios.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Water
CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Other
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: _ Water Quality
_ Environmental Chemistry & Pollution
ISSN: 0048-9697
Format Availability: Electronic, Print
Additional Keywords: Oestrogens, Androgens, Farm animal excretion, Agriculture, Manure, Slurry
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 02 Jul 2007 08:39 +0 (UTC)

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