Hormones in our water supply are altering the gender of some male fish, causing wide concern about the broader impacts of such contamination. Ohio Sea Grant researcher Dr. Yo Chin, Professor of Geology at Ohio State University, and his graduate student Marcy Card believe that certain plants may be able to absorb hormones directly from the soil and break them down before they reach rivers and lakes.
Chin and Card are looking specifically a form of estrogen called estradiol and a chemical called zeranol that mimics the behavior of estrogen in our bodies. It’s often administered to livestock to induce them to grow. Early data look promising.
"Preliminary data show that a small group of poplar trees reduce the concentration of zeranol by 80% in just four days," Card explains. "That’s in a hydroponics system with no soil. It will be different when some of the compound absorbs into soil, but the poplars are turning out to be really efficient at picking up the zeranol."
In addition to poplar trees, Chin and Card are planning to look at corn, switch grass, and a yet-to-be-determined aquatic plant. "We’d like to see the chemicals progress from a crop plant into a riparian zone-the interface between land and a stream-and into an aquatic system," Card says.
To read more about this Ohio Sea Grant-funded research, visit http://ohioseagrant.osu.edu/_documents/twineline/v31i4.pdf