Environmental Health Program

Environmental Health Featured Science Activities

Our science activities are summarized in a series of feature articles that highlight recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) environmental health science activities. They are short summaries of peer-reviewed journal articles and USGS reports co-authored by our specialized teams of scientists.

Filter Total Items: 204
Date published: October 1, 2021
Status: Active

Web-Based Tool Developed through Multiagency Effort Allows Visualization of Cyanobacteria Blooms in Lakes and Reservoirs—Steps Toward Public Awareness and Exposure Prevention

A web-based application tool utilizing satellite data—CyANWeb—developed through collaborative interagency efforts was released as part of the Cyanobacteria Assessment Network (CyAN) to help Federal, State, Tribal, and local partners identify when cyanobacterial blooms may be forming. Available through a web browser or as an application, the tool can access, download, and provide data to...

Contacts: Keith A Loftin, Ph.D., Sandra Eberts, Blake Schaeffer, Jeremy Werdell, Richard Stumpf
Date published: August 5, 2021
Status: Active

Large Fraction of Unidentified Organofluorine in a Coastal Watershed has Implications for River to Marine Ecosystems

A group of scientists investigated per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in watersheds on Cape Cod and identified a unique signature for aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) from legacy firefighting and fire training. A combination of statistical modeling and laboratory measurements indicates that unidentified organofluorine constitutes a large fraction of PFAS in the river systems that...

Contacts: Andrea K Tokranov, Denis R LeBlanc, Dr. Elsie M. Sunderland
Date published: July 7, 2021
Status: Completed

Do Trace Metal Concentrations in the Upper Columbia River Affect Early Life Stage White Sturgeon?

To understand if contaminants are associated with white sturgeon population declines, U.S. Geological Survey scientists reviewed the life history, physiology, and behavior of white sturgeon, along with recent toxicological studies and existing trace metal data for locations in the Columbia River. The analysis indicated that the highest concentrations of copper and other metals in...

Date published: July 2, 2021
Status: Active

Groundwater Discharge is a Pathway for Phytoestrogen and Herbicide Entry to Streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Groundwater discharge zones are important spawning areas for fish because they provide a thermally stable habitat. Research at three streams in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with areas of focused groundwater discharge revealed that groundwater also is a source of phytoestrogens and herbicides that could result in fish exposure during sensitive life stages.

Contacts: Martin A Briggs, Vicki S Blazer, Tyler Wagner, PhD
Date published: June 23, 2021
Status: Completed

Geochemical Signatures of Oil and Gas Wastewater from an Accidental Release Detected in Stream Sediment and Pore Waters Two Years Post Spill

Scientists identified geochemical signatures of wastewater in Blacktail Creek, North Dakota, as a result of a 2015 pipeline leak. They demonstrated that environmental signatures from wastewater spills are persistent within a short (1-3 year) time frame, can enter the creek through subsurface pathways, and can create the potential for extended environmental exposures.

Date published: May 26, 2021
Status: Completed

Assessment of Mercury and Selenium Accumulation in Upper Colorado River Basin Fish

More than 50 years of existing mercury and selenium concentrations in native and nonnative fish species residing in streams within the Upper Colorado River Basin were compiled and analyzed to provide an understanding of concentrations among different species, sampling years, and locations to determine potential health risks. Concentrations of mercury and selenium were above health...

Date published: May 26, 2021
Status: Active

Ecotoxicology and Ecological Risks of Per‐ and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances

Ecotoxicology and ecological risks of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are summarized to highlight critical gaps and uncertainties, and to provide potential approaches to fill those gaps, including the development of targeted monitoring programs and cross-disciplinary approaches.

Date published: May 26, 2021
Status: Active

Inorganic and Organic Chemical Mixtures Detected in both Public and Private Tap Water in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Multiple detections of regulated and unregulated chemical (inorganic, organic) analytes or elements were detected in both privately and publicly supplied tap water samples from 20 residences in Cape Cod, Massachusetts that share a common source of water.

Date published: May 26, 2021
Status: Active

Scientists Provide an Understanding of Anticoagulant Rodenticide Exposure in Non-Target Bird Species

U.S. Geological Survey scientists and their partners utilize laboratory and field studies and existing information to improve understanding of anticoagulant rodenticide exposure and effects to wild birds.

Date published: May 25, 2021
Status: Completed

Long-Term Monitoring Reveals How Water and Biota in Remote Lakes Respond Differently to Changes in Atmospheric Deposition of Mercury

A comparison of regional mercury atmospheric deposition data with water, yellow perch, and dragonfly larvae samples from lakes in Voyageurs National Park indicates that decreases in mercury emissions resulted in mercury reduction in water from these remote lakes, but mercury declines in biota were significant in only one of three lakes, likely because resident biota integrate exposure over...

Date published: April 15, 2021
Status: Completed

Bioaccumulation of Mercury in Fish Varied by Species and Location in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed—Summary of Existing Data and a Roadmap for Integrated Monitoring

Fish mercury data from State monitoring programs and research studies within the Chesapeake Bay were compiled and summarized to provide a comprehensive overview of the variation in fish mercury concentrations among species and habitats within the watershed. These data are put into context with existing health benchmarks for humans, birds, and fish. Scientists also provide a roadmap for an...

Date published: April 7, 2021
Status: Completed

Flood Redistributes Mercury in Grand Canyon Aquatic Food Webs

Scientists coupled the concepts of energy flow through food webs with measurements of mercury in organic matter and animals to estimate mercury fluxes and fate during an experimental flood in the Colorado River. The flood redistributed mercury in simple, upstream food webs but not in more complex, downstream food webs.