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Environmental Health Science Feature Articles

Fathead minnow in a laboratory aquarium

Complex Mixtures, Complex Responses—Using Comprehensive Approaches to Assess Pharmaceutical Effects on Fish

The deleterious effects (for example, alteration of fish behavior, and so forth) observed in this study confirm that effluents containing pharmaceuticals can adversely affect fish in ways that are central to sustaining populations and that the effects may not be temporally consistent. ...

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Four sample bottels filled with leachate

Landfill Leachate Released to Wastewater Treatment Plants and other Environmental Pathways Contains a Mixture of Contaminants including Pharmaceuticals

Landfills are the final repository for a heterogeneous mixture of liquid and solid waste from residential, industrial, and commercial sources, and thus, have the potential to produce leachate—a liquid waste product that consists of a diverse mixture of chemicals as precipitation or applied water moves through the waste. ...

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Native bee foraging on a native flower

Native Bees are Exposed to Neonicotinoids and Other Pesticides

A recent reconnaissance study by the USGS demonstrates the first observed occurrence of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, in wild-caught native bees. The results indicate that native bees collected in an agricultural landscape are exposed to multiple pesticides including insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. ...

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Three maps from the USGS water-quality tracking tool

New Online Tool Tracks Water Quality in the Nation's Rivers and Streams

A new online graphical data tool that provides annual summaries of nutrient and sediment concentrations and loads and streamflow information is now available from the USGS. ...

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Prior water-quality sample colection from stream

Potential Exposure to Bacteria and Viruses Weeks after Swine Manure Spill

Manure spills may be an underappreciated pathway for livestock-derived contaminants to enter streams. Scientists from the USGS and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied an Iowa stream after the release of a large volume of swine manure (a manure spill). The scientists observed an increase in viruses and bacteria, which have the potential to cause human or swine disease, in the stream water and bed sediment. This study applied molecular techniques to identify microbial contaminants that were transported as far as 4 kilometers from the spill origin. The microbial contaminants persisted for several weeks in stream water and sediments after the spill. This study documented that stream sediment was a persistent reservoir of contamination following this manure spill. ...

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Black-capped chickadee with beak deformity

Environmental Contaminants and Beak Deformities in Alaskan Chickadees

A recent study by the USGS provides some of the first environmental contaminants data for a species of passerine bird (perching birds) in Alaska but leaves unanswered questions as to the cause of beak abnormalities found in this species. ...

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USGS scientist colecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon

First National-Scale Reconnaissance of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in United States Streams

Neonicotinoid insecticides (neonicotinoids) were present in a little more than half of the streams sampled across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a new USGS study. This is the first national-scale study of the presence of neonicotinoids in urban and agricultural land use settings across the Nation ...

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Photo showing the installation of a sealed domestic well cap and monitoring instruments

Public Perception Impedes Prevention of Arsenic Exposure

One of the biggest challenges in preventing arsenic exposure from drinking water may be public perception, according to a recent special section of Science of the Total Environment. In this special section of 13 papers report on new understanding of arsenic hydrogeochemistry, performance of household well water treatment systems, and testing and treatment behaviors of well users ...

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Scientist holding an adult Pacific lamprey

Pesticides, Flame Retardants, and Mercury in Tissues from Columbia Basin Pacific Lamprey

Pesticides, flame retardants, and mercury were present in Pacific lampreys (Entosphenus tridentatus) at levels that may be contributing to their overall decline in the Columbia River Basin. ...

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Two scientists on an electrofishing boat

Long-Term Study Finds Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Urban Waterways

USGS scientists determined that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) were present in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent, water, and fish tissue in urban waterways in the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River Regions ...

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USGS scientists collecting a water-quality sample

Federal and State Partnerships Advance Understanding of Contaminants in a Human-Health Context

Partnerships between the USGS and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) enhance the State's ability to evaluate human-health risks from chemicals of concern (CECs). ...

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USGS Scientist collecting water samples in a stream

Assessing Environmental Chemical Mixtures in United States Streams

The USGS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are collaborating on a field-based study of chemical mixture composition and environmental effects in stream waters affected by a wide range of human activities and contaminant sources. ...

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Three sample bottels with cultures of hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria

Microbiology and Chemistry of Waters Produced from Hydraulic Fracking—A Case Study

A new USGS study determined that the microbiology and organic chemistry of produced waters varied widely among hydraulically fractured shale gas wells in north-central Pennsylvania. ...

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USGS sceintists sampling groundwater

Personal Care Products, Pharmaceuticals, and Hormones Move from Septic Systems to Local Groundwater

Pharmaceuticals, hormones, personal care products, and other contaminants of concern associated with everyday household activities were found in adjacent shallow groundwater near two septic system networks in New York (NY) and New England (NE). ...

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Girl drinking water

Groundwater Quality in Principal Aquifers of the United States, 1991—2010

A new USGS report summarizes the major findings of national and regional assessments of groundwater quality in 40 Principal Aquifers in the United States. ...

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Electron micrograph of channel catfish macrophages - 42TA cell line

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) White Blood Cells are Functionally Modulated by Estrogens

Estrogens are recognized as modulators of immune responses in mammals, but how these effects might occur in fish was not understood. USGS scientists published findings that fish white blood cells (leukocytes) have specific estrogen receptors (ERs)—a discovery that moves scientists one step closer to understanding the connection between exposure to estrogenic substances and disease susceptibility in fish. ...

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USGS scientist takes a sample from a northern pintail duck

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Detected for the First Time in Wild Birds in North America

Scientists from the USGS are helping to track the movement of three strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIV) in wild birds. HPAI viruses are a concern as they are very pathogenic to poultry and some species of wild birds such as raptors. Infection can result in significant mortality of poultry and impact international trade of poultry products. In addition, ...

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Power plant smoke stacks

Comprehensive Assessment of Mercury in Streams Explains Major Sources, Cycling, and Effects

A new USGS report, Mercury in the Nation's Streams—Levels, Trends, and Implications, presents a comprehensive assessment of mercury contamination in streams across the United States. It highlights the importance of environmental processes, monitoring, and control strategies for understanding and reducing stream mercury levels. ...

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USGS scientist sampling a public-supply well

Public-Supply Well Pumping Regimes Influence Quality of Water Produced

USGS scientists studying the vulnerability of public-supply wells to contamination have identified ways in which the seasonal operation of public-supply wells can affect the quality of water that they produce.  By incorporating historical water-quality data into models of ...

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USGS Hydrologist sampling a public supply well

Contaminant Transport Models Aid in Understanding Trends of Chlorinated Ethenes in Public Supply Wells

USGS scientists used a mass–balance solute–transport model to enhance an understanding of factors affecting chlorinated ethene (CE) concentrations in a public supply well. They found that long–term simulated and measured CE concentrations were affected by dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) volume, composition, and by ...

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