Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, 230:49 | Cite as

Leaching of Free and Conjugate Natural Estrogens in Soil Monoliths

  • Francis X. M. CaseyEmail author
  • Diana Selbie
  • Heldur Hakk
  • Karl G. Richards


Natural free estrogens found in animal manures are potent endocrine-disrupting compounds. Environmental detections can be caused by such processes as physical and chemical non-equilibrium and colloidal or conjugate facilitate transport. Antecedent or “legacy” concentrations of estrogens resident in soil may also contribute significantly to environmental detections. The objective of this study was to measure and understand the dominant causes contributing to estrogen detections in the environment from a grazed system. To achieve this objective, the effluent of undisturbed lysimeters constructed from soils of fields grazed by dairy cows (Bos taurus) was monitored for free and conjugated estrogens. Four lysimeters were dosed with urine (Urine) and four only received water (Control). Water transfer for all lysimeters was similar, and all lysimeters were near field capacity for the duration of the experiment. Rapid transport of a conservative bromide tracer suggested that preferential flow was an important physical non-equilibrium transport process. Free estrogens and conjugated estrogens (17β-estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), 17β-estradiol-17-sulfate (E2-17S), 17β-estradiol-3-glucuronide (E2-3G), estrone-sulfate (E1-S)) were detected in the source urine (E2 = 17,248 ng/L, E1 = 1006 ng/L, E2-3G = 967 ng/L, E2-17S = 886,456 ng/L, E1-S = 1730 ng/L). These same free and conjugated estrogens, in addition to estriol (E3), were all detected frequently in both Control and Urine lysimeters (detection concentration ranks: E3 > E2-17S = E2 > E2-3G = E1 = E1-3S). Total potential estrogenicity in the effluent of the Control and Urine was also similar, indicating the presence of antecedent estrogens was the dominant contribution to estrogenic detections. Additionally, the frequent detection of conjugates in the lysimeter effluent was important, because it indicated that conjugates were stable in soil but had greater potential mobility than free estrogens.


Lysimeter Estrogens Estrogen conjugates Soil Preferential transport 



The first author gratefully acknowledges funding from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0730492. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work was also partially supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2010-65102-20400 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The authors are also grateful for the funding that was provided through the Research Stimulus Fund Program administered by the Department of Agriculture & Food under the National Development Plan 2007–2013 RSF 07536. The second author is grateful for the funding provided by Teagasc through the Walsh Fellowship Scheme. The authors are very grateful to Colleen Pfaff for her dedication in preparing the samples for mass spectral analyses and to Jason Holthusen for performing the mass spec analysis. The use of trade, firm, or corporation names in this publication is for the information and convenience of the reader, but it does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Agricultural Research Service, or the Food Safety and Inspection Service.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil Science, School of Natural Resource SciencesNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA
  2. 2.AgResearch, Ruakura Research CentreHamiltonNew Zealand
  3. 3.Teagasc, Environmental Research CentreJohnstown CastleWexfordIreland
  4. 4.Animal Metabolism—Agricultural Chemicals Research, Biosciences Research LaboratoryUSDA–ARSFargoUSA

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