zombiecowIt sounds like a plotline from Walking Dead, but this zombie tale of bovine growth hormones is truth, not fiction.

It turns out that a hormone disruptor called trenbolone acetate disintegrates during the day but then regenerates at night, causing more pollution than previously thought. According to one recent study, steroids presumed dead continue to haunt water sources and may endanger the fish population in dumping areas.

“The assumption is that if it’s gone, we don’t have to worry about it,” said study co-leader Edward Kolodziej in an interview with Scientific American. “But we’re under-predicting their environmental persistence.”

“Risk assessments have been built on the basis that light exposure is enough to break down these products,” said Laura Vandenberg, endocrinologist at the University of Massachusetts. “This work undermines that idea completely.”

The drug was once a favorite of bodybuilders until the government banned it for human use. But the livestock industry still uses trenbolone to stimulate cattle growth — which helps ranchers’ wallets but hurts animals (including people). The steroid makes fish lay fewer eggs, and can cause infertility and cancer in us humans.

Although for the FDA deems this and other bovine hormones safe, a number of conservation organizations beg to differ. The steroid is banned in Europe, where health standards are stricter than in the United States.

Avoiding Zombie BGH

If you want to steer clear of trenbolone acetate at the grocery store, look for milk and other cow products labeled “steroid-free.” Certified organic products are also better choices, as organically raised cows are not allowed to receive antibiotics or hormones. Or, you could just stop eating cow products altogether. I gave up beef a long time ago, but I have yet to kick the dairy habit. I have a feeling this news will help.