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.
Older featured science activities are on our old Web site.

Filter Total Items: 97
Date published: June 20, 2019
Status: Completed

Persistent Contaminant Threats Following Hurricane Sandy—Establishing Baselines and Assessing Impacts

Potential long-term contaminant threats resulting from compromised infrastructure, beach erosion, and sediment disturbance were evaluated in the coastal environments of New Jersey and New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Contacts: Timothy Reilly
Date published: June 17, 2019
Status: Completed

Elevated Bladder Cancer in Northern New England—Drinking Water and Arsenic

Study finds bladder cancer risk was associated with water intake among participants with a history of private domestic well use. The trend was significant for participants who used shallow dug wells exclusively—a well type that typically has low arsenic concentrations but may have had higher concentrations historically.

Contacts: Joseph Ayotte
Date published: June 14, 2019
Status: Completed

Nitrate Addition Enhances Arsenic Immobilization in Groundwater

The addition of nitrate in a low oxygen groundwater resulted in the immobilization of naturally occurring dissolved arsenic and the conversion of nitrate to innocuous nitrogen gas.

Date published: May 7, 2019
Status: Active

Sublethal Effects of Contaminants in Aquatic Food Webs—Research Challenges and Considerations for Future Studies

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and academic scientists partnered to identify challenges and provide considerations for future scientific study designs to advance our understanding of the often subtle sublethal effects of contaminants on individuals, populations, communities, and entire aquatic food webs. 

Contacts: Kelly Smalling
Date published: April 22, 2019
Status: Active

No Evidence of Toxicity to Birds Ingesting Neonicotinoid-Coated Wheat Seeds During Controlled Laboratory Study

Scientists determined what happens to the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, on coated wheat seeds once ingested by Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica)—a model species for free-range, seed-eating, upland game birds. Imidacloprid was found to be rapidly adsorbed, metabolized, and excreted, and resulted in no overt signs of toxicity during a controlled laboratory study.

Date published: February 25, 2019
Status: Completed

Uranium in Springs Sampled Near the Grand Canyon Likely from Natural Sources

Scientists measured nine naturally occurring elements including uranium at 37 spring sites in the Grand Canyon area to establish baseline conditions and to understand the sources of uranium to local springs. Scientists found relatively greater concentrations of uranium at 6 of the 37 springs. A comprehensive geochemical analysis coupled with an understanding of the flow patterns in the area...

Date published: February 25, 2019
Status: Completed

Roadmap to Understanding Factors Influencing Mercury Exposure and Adverse Health Effects

In a comprehensive overview, scientists explain that human and wildlife exposure and toxicological responses to mercury are dependent on factors that operate across global, individual, and molecular scales. They provide a roadmap for unified research to facilitate a better understanding of human and wildlife health risks from mercury exposure.

Date published: February 25, 2019
Status: Completed

Pilot Study Provides Information on Contaminant Exposure from Tap Water at Residential and Workplace Sites in the United States

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in collaboration with National Institutes of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and academia, completed a pilot study to provide information on contaminant exposure from tap water at 26 locations including public and private supplies. Public-supply tap water generally met enforceable standards for those compounds with standards. Samples consisted...

Date published: February 8, 2019
Status: Completed

Variability in Composition of an Oil Spill after more than 30 Years of Natural Attenuation

More than thirty years after an oil spill, hydrocarbons measured in groundwater near Bemidji, Minnesota, have been depleted between 25 and 85 percent. However, some components have remained for many decades and some are expected to remain longer indicating that natural attenuation is an effective but slow process. Compounds that are sufficiently soluble and resistant to biodegradation provide...

Contacts: Barbara Bekins
Date published: February 5, 2019
Status: Active

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) detected in Source Waters and Treated Public Water Supplies

This study, which measured 17 per- and polyfuoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in source and treated public water supplies from 25 drinking water facilities as part of a broader study of contaminants in drinking water across the United States, reports that PFASs were detected in all source water and public water supply samples collected. One sample exceeded the current U.S. Environmental...

Contacts: Edward Furlong, Dana W Kolpin, Susan T. Glassmeyer
Date published: February 5, 2019
Status: Active

Novel Approach Improves Understanding of Virus Occurrence in Drinking Water

Waterborne viruses, one of the leading causes of gastrointestinal illnesses, were measured in United States drinking water sources and finished water. Scientists used a combination of measurement and statistical techniques to overcome limitations to quantifying these viruses, thus offering an enhanced method for virus monitoring.

Contacts: Edward Furlong, Dana W Kolpin, Susan T. Glassmeyer
Date published: December 18, 2018
Status: Completed

Long-term Studies Examine Contaminant Exposure and Reproduction of Ospreys Nesting in Two Large United States Estuaries

In a series of studies from 2010 to 2018, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists detected low levels of legacy contaminants and pharmaceuticals in osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and their food chain within the Chesapeake and Delaware River estuaries. Osprey reproductive success increased during the same period and was determined to be adequate to sustain a stable population in both...