Cattle Hormones Could Be Worse for Environment Than Previously Thought

Jun 15, 2015

Credit Wikimedia Commons

A recent study shows growth hormones used in beef cattle could be worse for the  environment than previously thought.  The new research comes from Indiana University.

Synthetic testosterone is used in the majority of U.S. beef cattle to make cows  bigger.  But when the steroids exit the cows, they can easily be washed into waterways. And once those compounds enter the environment, they can have surprising  reactions - like increasing in potency. 

“That means the product, what is unexpectedly made in the environment, is more  harmful than what we put into the environment,” says Adam Ward, IU’s lead researcher on the study. He says another finding is  that the compounds can stick around 50 percent longer than originally thought. 

Ward says the testosterone results are a canary in the coal mine situation – that  although they studied just one compound, it represents a lot of other potential  contaminants. And he says even a small amount of these hormones can have a big environmental  impact – disrupting entire ecosystems by altering reproductive cycles in fish and  other wildlife. 

Ward says the the U.S. should reassess the way it regulates hazardous substances,  and take into account how those substances can change.