Manure lagoons may hold a dirty little secret: excessive amounts of estrogenic hormones.

A new study from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center has linked dairy wastewater with stalled biodegradation of estrogen, possibly impacting the surrounding environment.

Lactating animals produce estrogenic hormones that are excreted in urine and feces, according to this article in ScienceDaily. When exposed to air, the estrogen tends to break down into harmless byproducts. But in oxygen-deprived environments such as large manure lagoons, estrogen struggles to biodegrade. 

Researchers raised concerns that current federal laws and regulations may not address the potential risk of estrogen in wastewater. One of the concerns, if wastewater were to escape into the environment, is that estrogenic hormones could affect the reproductive functions of aquatic animals.

Other studies have looked into the issue and offered possible solutions. One study found that a wetland system removed 95 percent of the estrogen in wastewater. Read the abstract of study here.  

A similar study in 2010 suggested the use of reactive materials to remove hormonal contaminates from dairy farm wastewater. You can download and read the study here.  

Researchers in each of the studies suggested that further research ― and a need to develop an industry-accepted strategy ― is essential.