Being sustainable is one thing, but newly-published University of Illinois research suggests dairy farmers are unwittingly recycling estrogenic hormones. The study, appearing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, says the hormonic levels of the waste from these lactating cows is between 100 and 1,000 times what it is in what comes from sewage plants. The concentrated estrogen has a hard time breaking down, too, and is still there when the waste – contained in farm lagoons – is spread back onto the land as fertilizer.

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Wei Zheng, a research scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center within the U. of I. Prairie Research Institute, says the treatment regulations are less stringent for such lagoons than they are for public wastewater plants.

While Zheng stresses these findings are not cause for alarm, he adds, “We need to develop a strategy to prevent these hormones from building up in the environment.”

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