Transport/Fate/Ecological Effects of Steroids from Poultry Litter & Evaluations of Existing/Novel Management Strategies

EPA Grant Number: R833418
Title: Transport/Fate/Ecological Effects of Steroids from Poultry Litter & Evaluations of Existing/Novel Management Strategies
Investigators: Fisher, Daniel J. , Kane, Andrew S. , Klauda, Ronald J. , Staver, Kenneth , VanVeld, Peter , Yonkos, Lance T.
Institution: Wye Research and Education Center , Maryland Department of Natural Resources , School of Medicine at the University of Maryland , Virginia Institute of Marine Science
EPA Project Officer: McOliver, Cynthia
Project Period: August 1, 2007 through June 30, 2010 (Extended to July 31, 2012)
Project Amount: $694,736
RFA: Fate and Effects of Hormones in Waste from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOS) (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Endocrine Disruptors , Health , Safer Chemicals


Proposed research address all three areas of interest presented in this EPA STAR RFP: fate of poultry litter-associated hormones, impacts of exposure on ecological systems, and evaluation of various management strategies. Given that fecal sex steroids persist at high concentrations in poultry litter, we hypothesize that runoff from fields treated with litter will exert a direct steroidal effect on aquatic organisms within receiving waters. Previous studies at our laboratory have demonstrated that: (1) fecal steroids in poultry litter reach receiving waters via rain-induced runoff; (2) this runoff is sufficiently estrogenic to feminize male fish; and (3) differences in agricultural management strategies can affect steroid concentrations in runoff and receiving waters. Proposed research will address remaining questions concerning environmental persistence and bioactivity of steroids upon reaching surface waters and further investigate affects of agronomic practices on mitigating resultant environmental steroid loads.


Objectives will be accomplished in laboratory, controlled research field, and in situ watershed investigations. Multiple litter sources (broilers, laying hens, etc) will be screened for steroidal constituents to determine inherent variability. Steroids in aqueous litter mixtures (lab-generated and field-collected) will be monitored over time to determine degradation rates and pathways. Particular attention will be given to ratios of free vs. conjugated steroidal constituents. Fish will be exposed to aqueous litter mixtures in laboratory assays to determine the affects of steroid degradation on bioactivity. Influences of agricultural management practices on steroid transport to surface waters (via rain-induced runoff and/or groundwater migration) will be investigated using adjacent 33 acre research fields cropped variously under existing no-till practices of direct surface litter application, or by a novel sub-surface litter application technique. Finally, Maryland Biological Stream Survey protocols will be applied to agriculturally impaired watersheds to assess possible community and population level disturbances resulting from fecal steroid exposure

Expected Results:

Laboratory assays will clarify exposure criteria required to induce previously observed steroid effects. Controlled field runoff studies will determine the abundance, chemical nature, and environmental fate of litter-associated steroids transported under various cropping strategies. Biological stream sampling (MBSS) will assess links between environmental degradation and regional agricultural practices. Proposed project elements, coupled with previous research, should provide regulators with sufficient information to assess the actual risks that poultry litter-associated steroids pose to aquatic ecosystems and thus improve environmental protection. The Delmarva Peninsula is the most densely concentrated poultry producing area in the U.S. generating over generating over 600 million birds and 730,000 metric tons of litter annually. Since the primary disposal method is land application, this represents an enormous source of nutrients and other contaminants, including steroids, to aquatic systems. If subsurface application of poultry litter proves effective at reducing contaminant runoff and becomes widely used as a management option in the region, it could dramatically reduce the impact of poultry litter-associated contaminants, including fecal steroids and nutrients, on the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 9 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

endocrine disruption, indicators, vitellogenesis, intersex, estrogenicity, environmental exposure, risk assessment, watersheds, groundwater, ecological effects, bioavailability, sensitive populations, aquatic, fish, amphibians, population, sex, ecosystem protection, environmental chemistry, ecology, hydrology, histology, Chesapeake Bay, EPA Region 3, agriculture, concentrated animal feeding operation, chemical transport,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009 Progress Report
  • 2010 Progress Report
  • 2011 Progress Report
  • Final Report