Land application of animal manures such as poultry litter is a common practice, especially in states with surplus manure. Past studies have shown that animal manure may contain estrogens, which are classified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals and may pose a threat to aquatic and wildlife species. We evaluated the concentrations of estrogens in surface runoff from experimental plots (5 × 12 m each) receiving raw and pelletized poultry litter. We evaluated the free (estrone, E1; 17β-estradiol, E2β; estriol, E3) and conjugate forms (glucuronides and sulfates) of estrogens, which differ in their toxicity.
Sampling was performed for 10 natural storm events over a 4-mo period (April –July 2008). Estrogen concentrations were screened using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), followed by quantification using liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS). Concentrations of estrogens from ELISA were much higher than the LC/MS/MS values, indicating cross-reactivity with organic compounds. Exports of estrogens were much lower from soils amended with pelletized poultry litter than the raw form of the litter. No-tillage management practice also resulted in a lower export of estrogens with surface runoff compared with reduced tillage. The concentrations and exports of conjugate forms of estrogens were much higher than the free forms for some treatments, indicating that the conjugate forms should be considered for a comprehensive assessment of the threat posed by estrogens.