Due to a lapse in appropriations, the majority of USGS websites may not be up to date and may not reflect current conditions. Websites displaying real-time data, such as Earthquake and Water and information needed for public health and safety will be updated with limited support. Additionally, USGS will not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.  For more information, please see www.doi.gov/shutdown

Mission Areas

Environmental Health

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USGS specializes in science at the environment-health interface, by characterizing the processes that affect the interaction among the physical environment, the living environment, and people, and the resulting factors that affect ecological and human exposure to disease agents.

Our Science Strategy
Filter Total Items: 91
Date published: September 24, 2018
Status: Active

Are Spills Associated with Deep Well Injection of Wastewater from Oil and Gas Operations a Health Hazard?

We have specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, biologists, and geologists working together in the New River Gorge National River watershed to answer this question.

 Wastewater generated in association with oil and gas operations at this site is managed by injection in deep wells designed to safely dispose and contain contaminants in deep geologic formations.

Contaminants...

Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Food Resources Science Team

Access to an adequate, safe, and sustainable food supply is one of the highest priorities for our society. Agricultural crop and livestock production often occur within the same landscapes. Their yields as well as pests, diseases, and other threats are effectively managed by using a variety of tools such as synthetic nutrients, pesticides, and veterinary pharmaceuticals. Best management...

Contacts: Dana W Kolpin
Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Toxins and Harmful Algal Blooms Science Team

Algal blooms frequently occur in our Nation's water resources and can cause economic, ecologic and human health concerns. Natural toxins produced by cyanobacteria and other microorganisms are commonly associated with algal blooms. Yet, the actual health threats posed to the public, pets, livestock, and wildlife by these toxins in water resources used for recreation and drinking water remain...

Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Land Stewardship Science Team

Managers of federal lands (national parks and monuments, refuges, wildlands, etc.) need to use chemicals to deal with difficult issues such as stopping wildfires, controlling wildlife disease, and removing non-native plants and animals. Sometimes, using chemicals to deal with these issues has the potential to cause unintended consequences and unforeseen health impacts to both humans and other...

Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Minerals Science Team

Mineral mining is an essential part of a healthy economy. U.S. mines produced an estimated $75.2 billion in nonfuel minerals during 2017 including industrial minerals, aggregates, and metals. The mining industry and government regulators work to prevent the release of contaminants such as metals into the environment from mining activities. With interdisciplinary scientists in our laboratories...

Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Science Team

Treatment and distribution systems for safe water supply and wastewater recycling and reuse are essential for public health and the environment. Approximately 80 percent of the U.S. population resides in urban areas where public water and wastewater systems are monitored and made safe under state and federal regulations. The remainder of the population depends on self-monitored and maintained...

Contacts: Paul M Bradley
Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Disaster Science — Capability Team

About the Capability Team

Natural (coastal storms, wildfires, floods) and human-induced (structural failures, building collapse, oil, and/or chemical spills) disasters occur every year in the United States. Minimizing loss of human life and damages to personal property and infrastructure is the focus of most disaster response and preparedness activities by federal,...

Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Immunomodulation Science Team

Exposure of wildlife, fish, and humans to environmental contaminants is known to cause changes in immune function, which can affect fitness, reproduction and disease resistance. This process, known as immunomodulation, is a major research topic by public health, veterinary, and other medical professionals outside the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). However it is outside the mission of those...

Date published: September 11, 2018
Status: Active

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Science Team

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and provides critical resources to fish, wildlife and people. For more than a decade, recreational fish species have been plagued with skin lesions and intersex conditions (the presence of male and female sex characteristics in the same fish) that biologists attributed to exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)....

Contacts: Kelly Smalling
Date published: September 7, 2018
Status: Completed

Unique Methods Used to Understand Frog Exposure to Pesticides in Agricultural Settings

Adult frog exposure to pesticides in aquatic and terrestrial habitats was quantified using a novel combination of radio telemetry and passive sampling techniques to better understand factors affecting frog health and survival in agricultural landscapes.

Contacts: Kelly Smalling
Date published: August 30, 2018
Status: Active

Bioactive Chemicals Research Laboratory — Boulder, Colorado

About the Laboratory

The Bioactive Chemicals Research Laboratory applies a collaborative transdisciplinary approach to conduct research to minimize the risk to human and aquatic organism health from exposure to contaminants in water supplies. This laboratory integrates analytical chemistry, modeling, laboratory-, and field-based experiments to identify and quantify key...

Date published: August 30, 2018
Status: Active

Algal and Other Environmental Toxins Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas

About the Laboratory

Scientists at the Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL) in Lawrence, Kansas, develop and employ targeted and non-targeted analytical methods for identification and quantitation of known and understudied algal/cyanobacterial toxins that can impact the health of humans and other organisms. Newly acquired (2018) instrumentation will expand...

Filter Total Items: 2,467
Year Published: 2017

Cobalt—Styles of deposits and the search for primary deposits

Cobalt (Co) is a potentially critical mineral. The vast majority of cobalt is a byproduct of copper and (or) nickel production. Cobalt is increasingly used in magnets and rechargeable batteries. More than 50 percent of primary cobalt production is from the Central African Copperbelt. The Central African Copperbelt is the only sedimentary rock-...

Hitzman, Murray W.; Bookstrom, Arthur A.; Slack, John F.; Zientek, Michael L.
Hitzman, M.W., Bookstrom, A.A., Slack, J.F., and Zientek, M.L., 2017, Cobalt—Styles of deposits and the search for primary deposits: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017–1155, 47 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20171155.

Year Published: 2017

Contact and contagion: Probability of transmission given contact varies with demographic state in bighorn sheep

Understanding both contact and probability of transmission given contact are key to managing wildlife disease. However, wildlife disease research tends to focus on contact heterogeneity, in part because the probability of transmission given contact is notoriously difficult to measure. Here, we present a first step towards empirically investigating...

Manlove, Kezia R.; Cassirer, E. Frances; Plowright, Raina K.; Cross, Paul C.; Hudson, Peter J.

Year Published: 2017

Gene transcription patterns in response to low level petroleum contaminants in Mytilus trossulus from field sites and harbors in southcentral Alaska

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill damaged a wide range of natural resources, including intertidal communities, and post-spill studies demonstrated acute and chronic exposure and injury to an array of species. Standard toxicological methods to evaluate petroleum contaminants have assessed tissue burdens, with fewer assays providing...

Bowen, Lizabeth; Miles, A. Keith; Ballachey, Brenda E.; Waters, Shannon C.; Bodkin, James L.; Lindeberg, Mandy; Esler, Daniel N.
Bowen, L, AK Miles, B Ballachey, S Waters, J Bodkin, M Lindeberg, D Esler. 2017. Gene transcription patterns in response to low level petroleum contaminants in Mytilus trossulus from field sites and harbors in southcentral Alaska. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. doi: 10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.08.007

Year Published: 2017

Mass mortality attributed to acanthocephaliasis at a Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) colony in coastal California

From 12 May 2013 to 29 May 2013, the Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) colony at the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California, experienced a mass die-off of at least 92 adults, representing 71–92% of the breeding population on the US west coast. Cause of death was determined to be peritonitis due to perforations of the intestine...

Patton, Robert T.; Goodenough, Katharine S.; De La Cruz, Susan; Nevins, HannahRose M.; Cole, Rebecca A.; Bodenstein, Barbara; Shearn-Bochsler, Valerie I.; Collins, Brian; Beck, Jessie; Sadowski, Matthew; Takekawa, John Y.
Patton, RT, KS Goodenough, SEW De La Cruz, H Nevins, R Cole, B Bodenstein, V Shearn-Bochsler, B Collins, J Beck, M Sadowski, JY Takekawa. 2017. Mass Mortality Attributed to Acanthocephaliasis at a Gull-Billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica) Colony in Coastal California. Journal of Wildlife Diseases. doi: 10.7589/2016-11-258

Year Published: 2017

Efficacy and residual toxicity of a sodium hydroxide based ballast water treatment system for freshwater bulk freighters

The efficacy and residual toxicity of a sodium hydroxide (NaOH) based ballast water treatment system (BWTS) were tested aboard the Great Lakes carrier M/V American Spiritin 1000 L mesocosms containing water from the ship's ballast tanks. NaOH was added to elevate the pH to 11.5 or 11.7 for 48 h, after which pH...

Elskus, Adria; Mitchelmore, Carys L.; Wright, David; Henquinet, Jeffrey W.; Welschmeyer, Nicholas; Flynn, Colin; Watten, Barnaby J.
IN PRESS

Year Published: 2017

Future research needs involving pathogens in groundwater

Contamination of groundwater by enteric pathogens has commonly been associated with disease outbreaks. Proper management and treatment of pathogen sources are important prerequisites for preventing groundwater contamination. However, non-point sources of pathogen contamination are frequently difficult to identify, and existing approaches for...

Bradford, Scott A.; Harvey, Ronald W.
Bradford, S. A., Harvey, R. W.,2016, Future research needs involving pathogens in groundwater: Hydrology Journal, doi: 10.1007/s10040-016-1501-0

Year Published: 2017

Seroprevalence of Baylisascaris procyonis infection among humans, Santa Barbara County, California, USA, 2014–2016

Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm) infection is common in raccoons and can cause devastating pathology in other animals, including humans. Limited information is available on the frequency of asymptomatic human infection. We tested 150 adults from California, USA, for B. procyonis antibodies; 11 were seropositive,...

Weinstein, Sara B.; Lake, Camille M.; Chastain, Holly M.; Fisk, David; Handali, Sukwan; Kahn, Philip L.; Montgomery, Susan P.; Wilkins, Patricia P.; Kuris, Armand M.; Lafferty, Kevin D.
Weinstein, SB, CM Lake, HM Chastain, D Fisk, S Handali, PL Kahn, SP Montgomery, PP Wilkins, AM Kuris, KD Lafferty. 2017. Seroprevalence of Baylisascaris procyonis Infection among Humans, Santa Barbara County, California, USA, 2014–2016. Emerging Infectious Diseases 23(8): 1397-1399. doi: 10.3201/eid2308.170222

Year Published: 2017

Maternal transfer of mercury to songbird eggs

We evaluated the maternal transfer of mercury to eggs in songbirds, determined whether this relationship differed between songbird species, and developed equations for predicting mercury concentrations in eggs from maternal blood. We sampled blood and feathers from 44 house wren (Troglodytes aedon) and 34 tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) mothers...

Ackerman, Joshua T.; Hartman, C. Alex; Herzog, Mark P.
Ackerman, JT, CA Hartman, MP Herzog. 2017. Maternal transfer of mercury to songbird eggs. Environmental Pollution 230: 463-468. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.06.099

Year Published: 2017

Selenium: Mercury molar ratios in freshwater fish in the Columbia River Basin: Potential applications for specific fish consumption advisories

Fish provide a valuable source of beneficial nutrients and are an excellent source of low fat protein. However, fish are also the primary source of methylmercury exposure in humans. Selenium often co-occurs with mercury and there is some evidence that selenium can protect against mercury toxicity yet States issue fish consumption advisories based...

Cusack, Leanne K.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Harding, Anna K.; Kile, Molly; Stone, Dave

Year Published: 2017

Trace element contamination in feather and tissue samples from Anna’s hummingbirds

Trace element contamination (17 elements; Be, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, Ba, Hg, Tl, and Pb) of live (feather samples only) and deceased (feather and tissue samples) Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) was evaluated. Samples were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS; 17 elements) and atomic...

Mikoni, Nicole A.; Poppenga, Robert H.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Foley, Janet E.; Hazlehurst, Jenny; Purdin, Güthrum; Aston, Linda; Hargrave, Sabine; Jelks, Karen; Tell, Lisa A.
Mikoni, NA, R Poppenga, JT Ackerman, J Foley, J Hazlehurst, G Purdin, L Aston, S Hargrave, K Jelks, LA Tell. 2017. Trace element contamination in feather and tissue samples from Anna’s hummingbirds. Ecological Indicators 80: 96-105. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.04.053

Year Published: 2017

Widespread occurrence and potential for biodegradation of bioactive contaminants in Congaree National Park, USA

Organic contaminants with designed molecular bioactivity, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, originate from human and agricultural sources, occur frequently in surface waters, and threaten the structure and function of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Congaree National Park in South Carolina (USA) is a vulnerable park unit due to its...

Bradley, Paul M.; Battaglin, William A.; Clark, Jimmy M.; Henning, Frank; Hladik, Michelle L.; Iwanowicz, Luke R.; Journey, Celeste A.; Riley, Jeffrey W.; Romanok, Kristin M.
Bradley, P.M., W.A. Battaglin, J.M. Clark, F.P. Henning, M.L. Hladik, L.R. Iwanowicz, C.A. Journey, J.W. Riley, and K.M. Romanok. 2017. Widespread Occurrence and Potential for Biodegradation of Bioactive Contaminants in Protected Wilderness of Congaree National Park, USA. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry. https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.3873

Year Published: 2017

Density-driven free-convection model for isotopically fractionated geogenic nitrate in sabkha brine

Subsurface brines with high nitrate (NO3−) concentration are common in desert environments as atmospheric nitrogen is concentrated by the evaporation of precipitation and little nitrogen uptake. However, in addition to having an elevated mean concentration of ∼525 mg/L (as N), NO3− in the coastal sabkhas of Abu Dhabi is enriched in 15N (mean δ15N...

Wood, Warren W.; Böhlke, John K.
Wood, W.W., and Böhlke, J.K., 2017, Density-driven free-convection model for isotopically fractionated geogenic nitrate in sabkha brine. Groundwater, v. 55(2), p. 199-207, doi: 10.1111/gwat.12463

Filter Total Items: 153
View from the air across a tidal march, mudflat, and channels with bay water to the right and a city in the background.
June 26, 2018

Bair Island, Redwood City

After 100 years of restricted tidal activity to support agricultural use and salt harvesting, the tidal marshes around San Francisco Bay, like this one at Bair Island, are steadily rebuilding, returning to a stunning mosaic of marsh, mudflat, and channels.

Fog on Yukon River
May 29, 2018

Fog on Yukon River

Fog along the Yukon River showing a Black Spruce dominated forest in the foreground, which is prone to wildfire.  Photo by Bruce Wylie, USGS

Scientist sitting next to a biological safety cabinet in a laboratory
May 14, 2018

Scientist Sitting Next to a Biological Safety Cabinet in a Laboratory

A U.S. Geological Survey scientist sits next to a biological safety cabinet in the cell bioassay laboratory at Columbia Environmental Research Center. Scientists optimized existing endocrine active chemical screening tests to improve their precision, accuracy, and

...
This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization fli1:egfp zebrafish (3 millimeters long) imaged under transmitted light
April 17, 2018

This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization

This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization fli1:egfp zebrafish (3 millimeters long) imaged under transmitted light. The same imaging system with was used.

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, Iowa, dominated by the blue green algae Microcystis sp. with a dead fish
April 17, 2018

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, Iowa

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, Iowa, dominated by the blue green algae Microcystis sp. with a dead fish

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, Iowa, dominated by the blue green algae Microcystis sp. with a dead fish
April 17, 2018

Cyanobacterial accumulation at Binder Lake, Iowa

Algal and Other Environmental Toxins Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas. Cyanobacterial accumulation along with a dead fish

Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish demonstrate changes in swimming behavior
April 16, 2018

Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish

Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish demonstrate changes in swimming behavior detected following exposure to metals. Such changes can impact ability of fish to survive.

Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory -- Columbia, Missouri
April 16, 2018

Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory -- Columbia, Missouri

Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory -- Columbia, Missouri. Swimming paths of control (left) and copper (right) exposed fish

Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System
April 13, 2018

Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System

High-Content Screening Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri. Molecular Devices ImageXpress High-Content Imaging System

The zebrafish developmental cardiovascular toxicity high-content screening assay uses a 384-well plate format
April 13, 2018

TZebrafish developmental cardiovascular toxicity high-content screen

The zebrafish developmental cardiovascular toxicity high-content screening assay uses a 384-well plate format to maximize number of treatments and replicates possible on each plate.

In addition to news releases on our latest papers, we provide Science Feature Articles that highlight results from environmental health science activities across the U.S. Geological Survey.

See Our Science Feature Articles
Filter Total Items: 69
Date published: May 24, 2017

Igniting a New Trend in Public Safety

U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners are taking technology to the next level, using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, to acquire both fire intensity and emissions data during prescribed burns.

Date published: February 1, 2017

Christian Zimmerman to Lead Studies as New Director of the Alaska Science Center

The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Christian Zimmerman as the new director of their Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Mark Shasby who held the position for the past six years.

Date published: November 17, 2016

USGS, NASA Study Finds Widespread Coastal Land Losses from Gulf Oil Spill

A new USGS-NASA study found widespread shoreline loss along heavily oiled areas of Louisiana's coast after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and compared the erosion from the spill with coastal changes Hurricane Isaac caused in 2012.

Date published: October 24, 2016

The Science of Harmful Algal Blooms

Building knowledge to protect ecological and human health

Date published: October 3, 2016

Rising Sea Levels, Coastal Development’s Effect on Gulf Coast Wetlands

As coastal development along the Gulf Coast continues to expand, tidal saline wetlands could have difficulty adjusting to rising sea levels.

Date published: September 26, 2016

Gulls in Alaska Found to Carry Antibiotic Resistant E. coli

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Some gulls in southcentral Alaska are carriers of antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli, according to a new study co-authored by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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