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Environmental Health Science Feature Articles

View of a tributary to Muddy Creek, Wyoming, showing salt crusts

Soil Disturbance Can Increase Stream Salinity in Semiarid Watersheds

Soil disturbance from construction of roads, pipelines, and well pads on naturally salt-rich soils was determined to be a potential factor resulting in increased salinity in a southern Wyoming stream. Construction can expose salt-rich soils in the subsurface to increased contact with rain and snow, thus mobilizing salts through runoff or water percolating into soils. ...

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Looking up at at power plant smoke stack

North American and European Atmospheric Mercury Declines Explained by Local and Regional Emission Reductions

Recent findings from a consortium of university, State, and USGS scientists indicate that declining atmospheric concentrations of mercury (Hg) can be explained by the phaseout of mercury in many commercial products and by reduced emissions from utilities over the past two decades. ...

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Two aerial images - photo of Florida area - MERIS sensor image

Remote Sensing Provides a National View of Cyanobacteria Blooms

Four Federal agencies, including the USGS, are collaborating to transform satellite data into information managers can use to protect ecological and human health from freshwater contaminated by harmful algal blooms. ...

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A scientist collects a groundwater sample with a syringe

Ethanol-Containing Fuel Spills Enhanced Natural Trace Element Release from Sediments in an Experimental Setting

Experimental field research simulating hydrocarbon spills by researchers from the USGS, Virginia Tech, and the University of St. Thomas showed that mixed ethanol and petroleum-based fuels increased the rate by which arsenic and other natural trace elements are released from aquifer sediments to groundwater when compared to petroleum-based fuels alone. ...

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A map that shows mercury source attribution in the Great Lakes

New Tool to Track Sources and Exposure Pathways of Mercury in the Environment — Application for Predatory Fish in the Great Lakes

The US Geological Survey (USGS) and collaborators at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a new tool for attributing (fingerprinting) mercury sources to the Great Lakes. This new fingerprinting tool helps resource managers understand which mitigation strategies will be most effective for reducing mercury loading and exposure to fish and wildlife. ...

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Graph-Maumee River-Increases in nitrogen concentrations coincide with nitrogen sources

U.S. Rivers Show Few Signs of Improvement from Historic Nitrate Increases

A recent USGS study provides a rare glimpse into how nitrate levels in 22 large rivers across the Nation have changed during the past 65 years. Despite the stabilization of nitrogen inputs in recent decades, there is no evidence of widespread decrease in nitrate levels in rivers. ...

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USA Map - Probability Chlorpyrifos Exceeds 4-day Moving Average Acute Fish Aquatic Life Benchmark

Predicting Pesticide Levels in Streams and Rivers—Where is Water Quality at Risk?

A new interactive mapping tool predicts likely concentrations for 108 pesticides in streams and rivers across the Nation. ...

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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) 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 bottles 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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