Environmental Health Mission Area Science Priorities for Fiscal Year 2019

Release Date:

The USGS Environmental Health Mission Area (EHMA)—through its integrated programs, the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program (TSHP) and the Contaminant Biology Program (CBP) — will continue its non-regulatory, non-advocacy science throughout 2019.

Our non-advocacy science helps the public, the private sector, academia, public health community, other government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders understand the actual versus perceived health hazards posed by natural- and human-sourced contaminants and pathogens in the environment. This integrated science objectively informs stakeholders about decisions to minimize or clean up priority health hazards posed by environmental contaminants and pathogens needed to safeguard the health of humans and wildlife.

USGS Science to Understand Contaminants and Pathogens in the Environment

During FY 2019, EHMA integrated science teams will continue to develop and apply advanced new methods that examine sources, transport, fate, exposures, and actual health hazards posed by poorly understood contaminants.  The contaminants studied include chemical contaminants (e.g. mercury, legacy chemicals, poly - and perfluoroalkyl substances), other hormonally and biologically active compounds (e.g. hormones, pesticides and pharmaceuticals), microbial contaminants (e.g. Bacillus anthracis, the soil bacterium that causes anthrax) and other contaminants (e.g. prions associated with chronic wasting disease; antibiotic resistance genes).  Our integrated science teams will continue research with a broad range of partners to understand the hazards that environmental contaminants and pathogens may pose to the health of humans and wildlife. They will continue to provide science that informs mitigation strategies and helps understand mechanisms that control sources, movement, and toxicological effects of contaminants.

Ongoing priorities by the integrated EHMA science teams include:

  • Science to protect game and fish resources from environmental contaminants
  • Science to understand the linkages among water and wastewater resources, infrastructure, and environmental contaminant exposures to the public
  • Science to understand how aquatic contaminants can lead to immunomodulation (susceptibility to infectious disease), endocrine disruption, and other sublethal toxic effects on biota in water resources
  • Science to balance the benefits and unintended consequences of chemicals used by land and water resource managers for eradication of invasive species, fire suppression, weed and pest management, and crop and livestock production
  • Science to inform best practices for waste management from mineral and energy activities
  • Science to aid in understanding the sources and movement of environmental contaminants through the aquatic food webs in targeted ecosystems of the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, the Arctic, the Columbia River, and elsewhere
  • Science to bring us closer to understanding what causes cyanobacteria to produce cyanotoxins and under what environmental conditions they are produced, how to meaningfully predict blooms, and the actual versus perceived hazards they pose to humans, fish, wildlife, livestock, and pets.

Media examined will include waters (for example, surface, ground, and tap waters), wild food sources, rocks, soils, sediments, dusts, and animal and plant tissues. Understanding potential uptake by humans and other organisms via inhalation, dermal, and ingestion exposure pathways will be accomplished through collaborations with external health agencies such as National Institutes of Health, health personnel in other Department of Interior Offices and Bureaus, State and local health departments, and health academia.