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When testosterone gets down and dirty

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12:11pm, January 4, 2004

Testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, or androgen, migrates in the environment in ways that could pose a threat to water quality, according to three new reports.

Soil physicist Francis X.M. Casey of North Dakota State University in Fargo and his colleagues have found that, despite their expectations, soil bacteria don't necessarily trap and degrade testosterone. The scientists put testosterone atop 8-centimeter-high columns of rich Midwestern soil and then moved water through the dirt. Intact testosterone exited the bottom of the columns, indicating that substantial amounts of the hormone evaded bacterial degradation.

The result was a surprise for two reasons, says Casey. First, the researchers had found that the female hormone estrogen mostly breaks down under the same conditions. Second, the team's preliminary experiments in test tubes had indicated that testosterone strongly attaches to soil particles and can be degraded.

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