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Environmental Health Science Priorities

Examples of priority science activities that fill current science gaps.

Cyanobacterial blooms in 2016 on Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Cyanobacterial blooms, such as the one shown that occurred in 2016 on Lake Okeechobee, Florida, can release toxins.

(Credit: Nicholas Aumen, US Geological Survey. Public domain.)

  • Understand the health impacts of natural environmental toxins such as cyanotoxins, measuring their presence and magnitude, and predicting algal and bacterial blooms that can release toxins into surface waters, soils, and dusts.
  • Help enhance drinking water safety by understanding how pathogens and contaminants in water sources are removed, increased, or changed as they move through the environment, water treatment and distribution infrastructure, and building plumbing to become tap water.
  • Provide science on chemicals that are used in stewardship of public lands to control invasive pests, weeds, and dust, and to suppress wildfires. This science informs decisions that balance use with impacts, for example understanding levels of chemicals that can be used to maximize effectiveness while at the same time minimizing the potential for unintended health consequences to humans or non-targeted organisms.
  • Help enhance food safety by understanding and reducing hazards posed by environmental contaminants and pathogens that can affect or result from food production.
  • Understand, anticipate and mitigate the health hazards posed by contaminants and pathogens released into the environment by a disaster event such as coastal storms, wildfires, floods, structural failures, building collapse, oil, and/or chemical
  • Provide science to understand and address actual versus perceived health hazards posed by byproducts from natural resource production and utilization.
  • Understand how pathogens such as the avian influenza virus can survive, move, and be deposited in soils, water, and lake sediments.
  • Apply USGS analytical technologies to physiological samples to help understand contaminant uptake, transport, fate, and effects in humans and other organisms. These technologies are increasingly recognized and requested by our collaborators in human health and medicine.
  • Develop advance field, laboratory, monitoring, and modeling capabilities to understand hazards posed to the health of humans and other organisms by new contaminants and complex contaminant mixtures.