Chicken Feathers Carry Drugs | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 15 | p. 35 | Concentrates
Issue Date: April 9, 2012

Chicken Feathers Carry Drugs

Agricultural feed and fertilizer made from chicken feathers may transfer drugs to the environment
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: pharmaceuticals in the environment, antibiotic resistance, chicken feathers, antibiotics, hormones, feather meal
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Drugs for humans and chickens linger in the animals’ feathers, even after the feathers get processed into fertilizer and animal feed.
Credit: Shutterstock
Photo of chickens.
 
Drugs for humans and chickens linger in the animals’ feathers, even after the feathers get processed into fertilizer and animal feed.
Credit: Shutterstock

Chicken feathers processed at high temperatures become “feather meal” that finds use as fertilizer and animal feed. But the feathers retain a slew of pharmaceutical compounds, researchers report (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es203970e). David C. Love, at Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues used liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry to test a dozen fertilizer and animal feed products made from the feather meal for 59 fungicides, antibiotics, and other compounds. The researchers found 24 drugs and personal care products including antihistamines, the pain reliever acetaminophen, and the antidepressant fluoxetine, better known as Prozac. They also discovered antibiotics in every sample and suggest that the meal may facilitate introduction of anti­microbial resistance to the environment. In addition to drugs known to be fed to chickens, the team also detected human-use substances such as caffeine and the oral contraceptive hormone norgestimate. To model what happens to these substances during the rendering that turns feathers to meal, the team put meal samples spiked with the compounds through an autoclave at high temperatures. They found that most of the chemicals partially broke down, but at least 20% of each of the parent compounds remained.

 
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