U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Environmental Health Science Headlines

USGS scientists Dr. Michael T. Meyer in the labortory

Recognition for a USGS Scientist in Service to Others

USGS scientist Dr. Michael T. Meyer has had a prolific career, publishing 60 journal articles and 45 USGS publications. Mike's publication record has recently led to his designation as a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, ranking among the top 1 percent of researchers from 2002 to 2012 for most cited documents in their specific field (Environment/Ecology). ...


USGS sampling truck with equipment used to sample well water. A scientist is in the truck

Commonly Used Chemicals Measured in Minnesota Groundwater

A team of USGS and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MCPA) scientists measured 127 organic chemicals in groundwater underlying urbanized areas in Minnesota. These chemicals include ones commonly used and consumed in our daily lives, in products such as human–use and veterinary pharmaceuticals, fragrances, surfactants, plastic components, and fire retardants. The chemicals are often called "chemicals of emerging environmental concern" because the risk to ...


Three technicians operating a drill rig

Arsenic in Minnesota Groundwater

USGS and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) scientists are assessing the distribution of arsenic in groundwater in Minnesota. Naturally occurring arsenic is common in groundwater in Minnesota. About ...


Map of the United States with symbols indicating which aquifers had increases or no change

Small Decadal–Scale Changes in Pesticides in Groundwater

USGS scientists have completed the most comprehensive evaluation to date (2014) of decadal–scale changes in pesticide concentrations in groundwater of the United States. Such assessments are essential for tracking long–term responses to changes in pesticide use and land–management practices. ...


Two pie charts. Left one - percent type of benchmark. Right one – percent chemical class

USGS Health-Based Screening Levels Available Online

A U.S. Geological Survey USGS Health-Based Screening Level (HBSL) Web site includes human-health benchmarks for 351 contaminants (79 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs), 117 EPA Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides (HHBPs), and 155 USGS HBSLs). The Web site also provides ...


A USGS scientist prepares a tracer solution in a gas-tight bladder

Chemicals Found in Treated Wastewater are Transported from Streams to Groundwater

USGS scientists studying a midwestern stream conclude that pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in treated wastewater effluent discharged to the stream are transported into adjacent shallow groundwater. Other mobile chemicals found ...


Road damage caused by flooding

Disasters and Environmental Health

USGS scientists are focusing on new efforts to help protect human and environmental health during disasters. Two papers published recently summarize important characteristics of materials released into the environment by natural and anthropogenic disasters, such as ...


Latham River at Jekyll Island State Park, Georgia

Nutrient Inputs to the Nation's Estuaries and Great Lakes

Maps and data tables that describe nutrient loading to major estuaries throughout the conterminous United States are now available ...


View of forest stream with inset of human ear with chiclero's ulcer

Does Biodiversity Protect Humans Against Infectious Disease?

Might biodiversity be healthy for the ecosystem and also protect people against infectious diseases? While most disease ecologists would say yes, a new study published in Ecology presents data suggesting that the balance between biodiversity and infectious disease is more complicated. ...


Dead bald eagle

Winter Eagle Deaths at Great Salt Lake due to West Nile Virus

Scientists from the USGS diagnosed West Nile Virus (WNV) in numerous eared grebes and bald eagles that died in a 2013 mortality event in the Great Salt Lake. Diagnoses were based on findings during pathological analysis to ...


Wing of a bat in UV light with orange-yellow fluorescence spots

Black-Light Detects White-Nose Syndrome in Bats

USGS scientists and collaborators discovered that long-wave ultraviolet (UV) light directed at the wings of bats with white-nose syndrome (WNS) produced points of distinctive orange-yellow fluorescence. The orange-yellow glow corresponds directly with microscopic skin lesions that ...


Underwater photo of a Sea urchin - Tripneustes gratilla

Sea Urchin Mortality in the Hawaiian Islands

Scientists from the USGS, University of Hawaii, the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, and The Nature Conservancy are investigating unusual mortality of collector urchins (Tripneustes gratilla) that has been ongoing since February 2014. As grazers, urchins play a critical role ...


Two sea otters

Human Influenza Virus Infects Sea Otters

USGS scientists, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have discovered evidence of the same influenza virus (H1N1) in sea otters living off the coast of Washington State that caused the 2009 "swine flu" pandemic in humans. During a sea otter health monitoring project ...


Cells with fish virus

Newly Discovered Picornavirus Spread by Baitfish

Scientists from the USGS contributed to a publication that reports the complete gene sequence of a novel picornavirus isolated from minnows and baitfish in several areas of the United States. The scientists used ...


Scientist holding a brook trout with gloved hands

Mercury in Fish from 21 National Parks in the West

USGS and National Park Service (NPS) scientists collaborated in the first study to measure mercury in fish from remote places in 21 National Parks spanning 10 Western States, including Alaska.  Mercury levels in fish generally were low, but were elevated in some local areas, ...


tundra swan

Satellite Tracking of Birds in Alaska Points to Distant Sources of Lead and Mercury Exposure

USGS scientists measured lead in blood from tundra swans that nest in Alaska and then followed the migration of these birds using satellite telemetry. Levels of lead in blood were higher in adults than young swans, ...


View of two streams. Left with low metals. Right with high metals.

Metals in Acid Mine Drainage Affect Aquatic Insects

Studies conducted in subalpine streams in Colorado by USGS scientists found that aqueous metals resulting from acid mine drainage and natural weathering can almost eliminate adult insect emergence from streams, even at metal levels too low to reduce aquatic larval densities. This pattern suggests ...


A USGS scientist collecting a water sample from a manhole

Pharmaceuticals and Other Chemicals Common in Landfill Waste

Landfill leachate contains a variety of chemicals that reflect our daily activities, USGS scientists concluded as a result of a nationwide study. Landfills are a common disposal mechanism for our Nation's solid waste from residential, commercial, and industrial sources. The scientists found ...


Schematic of transport of neonicotinoid insecticides from field to stream

Neonicotinoid Insecticides Documented in Midwestern U.S. Streams

Three neonicotinoid insecticides (clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid) were detected commonly throughout the growing season in water samples collected from nine Midwestern stream sites during the 2013 growing season according to a team of USGS scientists. Clothianidin was ...


Reflooded post-harvest rice straw

Water Management During Rice Production Influences Methylmercury Production

USGS scientists found that management practices relating to water drawdown and re-flooding in agricultural wetlands used for rice production contributed to higher methylmercury concentrations in sediment than was found in nonagricultural wetlands that were permanently or seasonally flooded. ...


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