Highlights from the Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting, San Francisco

Estrogen mimics may delay puberty and honeybees hurting from pesticides

Fungus products among us
Fungal-derived estrogen mimics may delay puberty in girls, an ongoing study concludes. Experts have widely believed that the compounds would never be detectable in humans. Yet urine from 58 adolescents tested as part of a project called the Jersey Girl Study contained the estrogen mimics zearalenone — which is produced by fungi that infect grains — or zeranol, a synthetic muscle-boosting analog administered to livestock. Girls who ate beef the day before the testing excreted zeranol, and eating popcorn was linked to zearalenone. Compared with others their age, the girls most exposed to these compounds had shorter stature and were less likely to have reached puberty, Helmut Zarbl of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Piscataway reported March 12.

Bee-deviled by pesticides
Supposedly nontoxic quantities of crop pesticides can subtly disrupt honeybee behavior, new data show. Louisa Hooven of Oregon State University in Corvallis applied a trio of the chemicals to hive wax. All three widely taint U.S. hives. Queen bees tried to avoid the pesticide-laced wax, Hooven reported March 12 — dramatically shifting where they laid eggs. Nurse or caretaker bees, which develop important daily activity cycles called circadian rhythms only as they mature into foragers, took substantially longer to develop the cycles if exposed to tainted wax. The higher the bees’ pesticide exposures, the longer the delay.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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