The release of endocrine disrupting chemicals into the environment is of increasing concern due to the formation of an intersex state in freshwater organisms and potential risks to human health. The aim of this study was to investigate the persistence of the naturally occurring hormones, estrone and 17 β-estradiol in three agricultural grassland soils in the presence and absence of cattle and sheep wastes (urine and manure). Biodegradation was investigated using 14C-labelled hormones which were applied to soil in three different solvents (water, artificial urine and natural sheep urine). When applied directly to soil the two hormones degraded at a similar rate, however, the speed of mineralization was soil type and solvent dependant. The half-life (t1/2) of the hormones in soils ranged from 5 to 25 d. The hormones were also applied to the soils in sheep and cattle manure of different ages (7 d to 2 yr). Generally, the rate of degradation in the animal manure amended soils was more rapid than in the unamended soils (t1/2 = 1-9 d), with mineralization being largely independent of manure age and type. We conclude that in comparison to many xenobiotics, estrogens are not persistent in agricultural soils. However, our calculations suggest that if they are lost to freshwater via runoff or leaching then they may have an appreciable effect on freshwater organisms. Assuming normal landspreading rates our results suggest that the risk of estrogen contamination of freshwater associated with manure spreading is very low.