Assessing contaminant exposure and effects of contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes Basin

Science Center Objects

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in addition to designating 31 Areas of Concern (AOCs) across the Great Lakes, also identified contaminants of emerging (CECs) and mutual concern (CMCs) that warranted additional work not only at AOCs but elsewhere within the Great Lakes Basin.   

CECs are a loosely defined group of chemicals and include perfluorinated substances (PFASs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pharmaceuticals and personal care products, newer types of agricultural pesticides, and others.  Tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are a useful in this context because there are now some exposure and effects data for a number of chemicals that are classified as CECs and CMCs.  Other reasons that tree swallows are an ideal model species are that they can be attracted to nest boxes placed in specific areas of interest, even to highly industrial landscapes where few other birds will nest, and cutting-edge effect endpoints are being developed to help better understand modes of action and fill critical monitoring and data gaps across the Great Lakes ecosystem.  Nest boxes are placed at sites of interest, and then beginning in mid-May each year visited weekly, or more often when needed, to document nesting activity and to collect samples.   Samples are collected at the appropriate time and consist of samples for chemical analyses and physiological responses.  Data have been collected at over 70 sites across the Great Lakes and are providing information on exposure to many little-studied environmental contaminants.  The information collected has been reported in 7 peer-reviewed publications to date.

 

Assessing contaminant exposure and effects of contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes Basin

Assessing contaminant exposure and effects of contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes Basin

(Credit: Chris Custer, UMESC. Public domain.)