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Researchers Discover Livestock Steroids May Affect Waterways

Update Date: Sep 27, 2013 03:04 AM EDT

Researchers have discovered that the anabolic steroid trenbolone, thought to break down in sunlight, can regenerate at night.

It was widely believed that particular steroids and other drugs quickly degrade once they're discharged into waterways and the ecological threat they pose declines.

 "The assumption is that if it's gone, we don't have to worry about it," says environmental engineer Edward Kolodziej of the University of Nevada in Reno, joint leader of the study. "But we're under-predicting their environmental persistence."

"Risk assessments have been built on the basis that light exposure is enough to break down these products," adds Laura Vandenberg, an endocrinologist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst who was not involved in the study. "This work undermines that idea completely."

Trenbolone is used for weight gain in cattle and also to increase its feeding efficiency. Long before it was also popular among weightlifters and bodybuilders, but now it is banned for humans. Scientists indicate the drug is implanted in the ears of over 20 million cattle in the U.S. itself. The drugs make its way into waterways through the livestock excretion.

"Reports from this paper may stimulate rethinking the timing of environmental monitoring and surveillance," Brooks told Healthline. "For example, the vast majority of routine water quality monitoring does not examine these unregulated contaminants. And if pharmaceuticals are examined in water bodies, sampling typically occurs during daylight hours and often only examines water samples from the surface of lakes and streams. Such a practice could over- or underestimate risks of various pharmaceuticals."

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