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STAR Grantee Featured in Newsweek
Heiko Schoenfuss, a STAR grantee and professor of biological sciences at St. Cloud State University, recently was cited in a Newsweek article regarding endocrine disruptors in the nation’s water. The June 4, 2007, article calls attention to the effects that chemicals in sewage appear to be having on fish. Scientists believe the chemicals in everyday materials such as antibacterial soap, skin lotion, and medications make their way to rivers and lakes and are causing fish to have both male and female sexual organs. The emerging contaminants are also thought to be responsible for the high ratio of female to male fish found in some water sources. The hypothesis is that these chemicals—harmless by themselves—combine to disrupt the endocrine system and act similarly to hormones. In order to test this phenomenon, Dr. Schoenfuss is using his STAR grant funds to expose laboratory fish to the chemical mix seen in wastewater facilities. His grant, entitled Developing Rapid Assessment Tools to Evaluate the Biological Effects of Complex and Biologically Active Chemical Mixtures, has already shown that male fish exposed to estrogen-mimicking chemicals are less successful at reproducing than a control group. As the Newsweek article makes clear, the potential of the chemicals to harm humans who drink from these sources is not yet understood, making the work Dr. Schoenfuss is doing on endocrine disruptors vastly important.
Dr. Schoenfuss is an assistant professor of anatomy in the Department of Biological Sciences at St. Cloud University. He obtained his B.S. degree from the University of Bayreuth (Germany). He holds an M.S. in veterinary anatomy and a Ph.D. in zoology from Louisiana State University. He has authored or co-authored more than 15 papers related to the effects of endocrine disruptors on the ecosystem.