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

Mission Areas L2 Landing Page Tabs

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: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory — Columbia, Missouri

About the Laboratory

The Behavioral Toxicology Laboratory develops behavioral methods in aquatic toxicology. These assays are used to characterize and quantify effects of contaminants on aquatic organisms. They have utilized these methods with a variety of organisms including larval and juvenile fish and amphibians.

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Bio-Uptake Research Laboratory — Menlo Park, California


About the Laboratory

The Bio-Uptake Research Laboratory uses novel stable isotope tracing techniques to assess the bioavailability of inorganic contaminants and characterize the underlying processes governing their bioavailability.

Date published: August 29, 2018
Status: Active

Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory — Lawrence, Kansas

About the Laboratory

Chemists and geologists at the Kansas Water Science Center's Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL) develop targeted and non-targeted analytical methods for the identification and quantitation of chemicals that can impact the health of humans and other organisms and use bioassays to screen for receptor inhibition. They have developed...

Date published: August 28, 2018
Status: Active

Organic Chemistry Research Laboratory — Sacramento, California

About the Laboratory

Chemists and hydrologists at the Organic Chemistry Research Laboratory (OCRL) develop targeted analytical methods for the quantitation of chemicals that can impact the health of organisms and humans. They have developed methods in a wide variety of environmental media; in addition to water and sediment, they also analyze a variety of tissue matrices...

Date published: August 28, 2018
Status: Active

Laboratories and Capability Teams

Short descriptions of our specialized laboratories and capabilities across the United States.

Contacts: Mike Focazio
Date published: August 24, 2018
Status: Completed

Exploring the Suitability of a Modeling Approach to Estimate Contaminant Occurrence in Drinking Water Sources

Scientists explored the suitability of the DeFacto Reuse in our Nation's Consumable Supply (DRINCS) model to estimate the likelihood of contaminants from upstream wastewater discharges to enter drinking water facility intakes.

Contacts: Edward Furlong, Dana W Kolpin, Susan T. Glassmeyer
Date published: August 23, 2018
Status: Completed

Systematic Approach to Understanding Tree Swallow Health in the Great Lakes Region—Science to Inform Restoration

Four papers by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists document tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) chemical exposure, physiological responses, and reproductive success in the Great Lakes region. These studies were designed to understand if there are health threats to swallows from contaminant exposure, and to provide resource managers with information about the actual as apposed to...

Date published: August 23, 2018
Status: Active

Fishing and Hunting Science Team

Fish and wildlife that are healthy, abundant, and safe to eat drive many economically valuable commercial, recreational, and subsistence activities, and are a treasured part of the American landscape. Contaminant and pathogen exposures are known to impact these natural resources. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists in the Fishing and Hunting Science Team, together with other federal,...

Date published: July 12, 2018
Status: Active

Ecologically-Driven Exposure Pathways Science Team

Contaminant and pathogen exposure alone will not necessarily result in adverse health outcomes in animals or humans. There are numerous ecological and physiological pathways and processes that can alter the toxicity of environmental contaminants. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Scientists in the Ecological Pathways Team of the USGS Environmental Health Mission Area work to identify the...

Date published: June 6, 2018
Status: Completed

Scientists Identify Processes that Affect Fish Mercury Concentrations in Estuarine Wetlands

In a study designed to help resource managers when considering mercury exposure risk, scientists determined that sulfur cycling—a process closely related to mercury methylation rates—and ecological conditions that influence exposure are important factors affecting fish mercury concentrations in estuarine wetlands.

Date published: May 30, 2018
Status: Completed

Selected Pharmaceuticals Not Likely to Persist in Wild Fish: Results of Uptake and Elimination Testing

Laboratory study shows that both uptake and elimination of selected pharmaceuticals within bluegill tissues is rapid indicating that persistence in bluegills in the environment is likely to be low except in those fish that reside downstream from a consistent, substantial, contaminant source.

Date published: May 29, 2018
Status: Completed

Endocrine Active Chemical Screening Tests Optimized to Improve Precision, Accuracy, and Timeliness

Scientists optimized existing endocrine active chemical screening tests to improve their precision, accuracy, and ability to screen more samples in a shorter time-frame. The optimization was done to more rapidly obtain results from the bioassays so that research on the risks of endocrine active chemical exposure can proceed more rapidly.

Filter Total Items: 2,467
Year Published: 2016

The removal kinetics of dissolved organic matter and the optical clarity of groundwater

Concentrations of dissolved organic matter (DOM) and ultraviolet/visible light absorbance decrease systematically as groundwater moves through the unsaturated zones overlying aquifers and along flowpaths within aquifers. These changes occur over distances of tens of meters (m) implying rapid removal kinetics of the chromophoric DOM that imparts...

Chapelle, Francis H.; Shen, Yuan; Strom, Eric W.; Benner, Ronald

Year Published: 2016

Investigating dynamic sources of pharmaceuticals: Demographic and seasonal use are more important than down-the-drain disposal in wastewater effluent in a University City setting

Pharmaceutical pollution in surface waters poses risks to human and ecosystem health. Wastewater treatment facilities are primary sources of pharmaceutical pollutants, but little is known about the factors that affect drugs entering the wastewater stream. This paper investigates the effects of student pharmaceutical use and disposal behaviors and...

Vatovec, Christine; Phillips, Patrick J.; Van Wagoner, Emily; Scott, Tia-Marie; Furlong, Edward T.
Vatovec, C., Phillips, P., Van Wagoner, E., Scott, T-M., and Furlong, E., 2016, Investigating dynamic sources of pharmaceuticals: Demographic and seasonal use are more important than down-the-drain disposal in wastewater effluent in a University City setting, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 572: 906-914.

Year Published: 2016

Bald Eagle nestling mortality associated with Argas radiatus and Argas ricei tick infestation and successful management with nest removal in Arizona, USA

Eight Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nestlings heavily infested with larval ticks were found in or under a nest near the confluence of the Verde and Salt rivers in Arizona in 2009-11. The 8-12-wk-old nestlings were slow to respond to stimuli and exhibited generalized muscle weakness or paresis of the pelvic limbs. Numerous cutaneous and...

Justice-Allen, Anne; Orr, Kathy; Schuler, Krysten L.; McCarty, Kyle; Jacobson, Kenneth; Meteyer, Carol U.
Anne Justice-Allen, Kathy Orr, Krysten Schuler, Kyle McCarty, Kenneth Jacobson, and Carol Meteyer (2016) Bald Eagle Nestling Mortality Associated with Argas radiatus and Argas ricei Tick Infestation and Successful Management with Nest Removal in Arizona, USA. Journal of Wildlife Diseases: October 2016, Vol. 52, No. 4, pp. 940-944.

Year Published: 2016

Effects of flow regime on metal concentrations and the attainment of water quality standards in a remediated stream reach, Butte, Montana

Low-flow synoptic sampling campaigns are often used as the primary tool to characterize watersheds affected by mining. Although such campaigns are an invaluable part of site characterization, investigations which focus solely on low-flow conditions may yield misleading results. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate this point and elucidate...

Runkel, Robert L.; Kimball, Briant A.; Nimick, David A.; Walton-Day, Katherine

Year Published: 2016

Changing agricultural practices: Potential consequences to aquatic organisms

Agricultural practices pose threats to biotic diversity in freshwater systems with increasing use of glyphosate-based herbicides for weed control and animal waste for soil amendment becoming common in many regions. Over the past two decades, these particular agricultural trends have corresponded with marked declines in populations of fish and...

Lasier, Peter J.; Urich, Matthew L.; Hassan, Sayed M.; Jacobs, Whitney N.; Bringolf, Robert B.; Owens, Kathleen M.
Lasier, P. J., Urich, M. L., Hassan, S. M., Jacobs, W. N., Bringolf, R. B., and Owens, K. M., 2016, Changing agricultural practices: potential consequences to aquatic organisms: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 188, no. 672, p. 1-17.

Year Published: 2016

Ground squirrel shooting and potential lead exposure in breeding avian scavengers

Recreational ground squirrel shooting is a popular activity throughout the western United States and serves as a tool for managing ground squirrel populations in agricultural regions. Belding’s ground squirrels (Spermophilus beldingi) are routinely shot in California, Nevada, and Oregon across habitats that overlap with breeding avian scavengers....

Herring, Garth; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Wagner, Mason T.
Herring, G., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Wagner, M.T., 2016, Ground squirrel shooting and potential lead exposure in breeding avian scavengers: PLOS ONE, v. 11, no. 12, p. e0167926, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167926 pone.0167926.

Year Published: 2016

Exposure to the contraceptive progestin, gestodene, alters reproductive behavior, arrests egg deposition, and masculinizes development in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)

Endogenous progestogens and pharmaceutical progestins enter the environment through wastewater treatment plant effluent and agricultural field runoff. Lab studies demonstrate strong, negative exposure effects of these chemicals on aquatic vertebrate reproduction. Behavior can be a sensitive, early indicator of exposure to environmental...

Frankel, Tyler E.; Meyer, Michael T.; Kolpin, Dana W.; Gillis, Amanda B.; Alvarez, David A.; Orlando, Edward F.

Year Published: 2016

Molecular-level evidence provided by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry for oil-derived doc in groundwater at Bemidji, Minnesota

Dissolved organic matter samples extracted from ground water at the USGS Bemidji oil spill site in Minnesota were investigated by ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry. Principle component analysis (PCA) of the elemental composition assignments of the samples showed that the score plots for the contaminated sites were well separated from those...

Islam, Ananna; Ahmed, Arif; Hur, Manhoi; Thorn, Kevin A.; Kim, Sunghwan
Islam, A., Ahmed, A., Hur, M., Thorn, K., and Kim, S., 2016, Molecular-Level Evidence Provided by Ultrahigh Resolution Mass Spectrometry for Oil-Derived DOC in Groundwater at Bemidji, Minnesota: Journal of Hazardous Materials, 320, doi:10.1016/j.jhazmat.2016.08.018

Year Published: 2016

Application of frequency- and time-domain electromagnetic surveys to characterize hydrostratigraphy and landfill construction at the Amargosa Desert Research Site, Beatty, Nevada

In 2014 and 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), conducted frequency-domain electromagnetic (FDEM) surveys at the USGS Amargosa Desert Research Site (ADRS), approximately 17 kilometers (km) south of Beatty, Nevada. The FDEM surveys were conducted within and adjacent to a closed low-level radioactive waste disposal site located at the ADRS....

White, Eric A.; Day-Lewis, Frederick D.; Johnson, Carole D.; Lane, John W.

Year Published: 2016

Assessment of trace element accumulation by earthworms in an orchard soil remediation study using soil amendments

This study assessed potential bioaccumulation of various trace elements in grasses and earthworms as a consequence of soil incorporation of organic amendments for in situ remediation of an orchard field soil contaminated with organochlorine and Pb pesticide residues. In this experiment, four organic amendments of differing total organic carbon...

Centofantia, Tiziana; Chaney, Rufus L.; Beyer, W. Nelson; McConnell, Laura L.; Davis, A. P.; Jackson, Dana

Year Published: 2016

Enabling science support for better decision-making when responding to chemical spills

Chemical spills and accidents contaminate the environment and disrupt societies and economies around the globe. In the United States there were approximately 172,000 chemical spills that affected US waterbodies from 2004 to 2014. More than 8000 of these spills involved non–petroleum-related chemicals. Traditional emergency responses or incident...

Weidhass, Jennifer L.; Dietrich, Andrea M.; DeYonker, Nathan J.; Dupont, R. Ryan; Foreman, William T. ; Gallagher, Daniel; Gallagher, Jennifer E. G.; Whelton, Andrew J.; Alexander, William
Weidhaas, J.L., Dietrich, A.M., DeYonker, N.J., Ryan Dupont, R., Foreman, W.T., Gallagher, D., Gallagher, J.E.G., Whelton, A.J., and Alexander, W.A., 2016, Enabling science support for better decision-making when responding to chemical spills: Journal of Environmental Quality, v. 45, no. 5, p. 1490-1500; http://dx.doi.org/10.2134/jeq2016.03.0090.

Year Published: 2016

Environmental implications of the use of sulfidic back-bay sediments for dune reconstruction — Lessons learned post Hurricane Sandy

Some barrier-island dunes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy's storm surges in October 2012 have been reconstructed using sediments dredged from back bays. These sand-, clay-, and iron sulfide-rich sediments were used to make berm-like cores for the reconstructed dunes, which were then covered by beach sand. In November 2013, we sampled and...

Plumlee, Geoffrey S.; Benzel, William M.; Hoefen, Todd M.; Hageman, Philip L.; Morman, Suzette A.; Reilly, Timothy J.; Adams, Monique; Berry, Cyrus J.; Fischer, Jeffrey; Fisher, Irene

Filter Total Items: 153
The nCounter SPRINT† system simultaneously analyzes transcript abundance of hundreds of genes in a single sample
March 22, 2018

nCounter SPRINT† system simultaneously analyzes transcript abundance

The nCounter SPRINT system simultaneously analyzes transcript abundance of hundreds of genes in a single sample

Primary leukocytes have been isolated from experimental fish to evaluate functional immune responses
March 22, 2018

Primary leukocytes have been isolated from experimental fish

Functional and Molecular Bioassay Laboratory — Kearneysville, West Virginia. Multiwell cell culture array

Modified Wolf Creek Site Map
December 31, 2017

Wolf Creek site map modified from Figure 1

Wolf Creek site map modified from Figure 1 of 'Organic geochemistry and toxicology of a stream impacted by unconventional oil and gas wastewater disposal operations, Orem and Others, 2017'.  

Aquariums where male fathead minnows were exposed to the effluent from a wastewater treatment plant
December 31, 2017

Aquariums where male fathead minnows were exposed to sewage effluent

Aquariums where male fathead minnows were exposed to the effluent from a wastewater treatment plant

Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) swimming in an experimental aquarium
December 31, 2017

Fathead minnows swimming in an experimental aquarium

Bioactive Chemicals Research Laboratory — Boulder, Colorado. Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) swimming in an experimental aquarium. The aquarium is part of an experiment to assess endocrine disruption in fish.

USGS scientist collecting samples of aquatic species from the Pike River, Wis., for later analysis of mercury contamination.
December 31, 2017

Collecting samples of aquatic species from the Pike River, Wisconsin

Microbial Biogeochemistry Laboratory — Menlo Park, California. USGS scientist collecting samples of aquatic species from the Pike River, Wis., for later analysis of mercury contamination.

USGS scientist collecting samples of aquatic species from the Pike River, Wis., for later analysis of mercury contamination
December 31, 2017

USGS scientist collecting samples of aquatic species from Pike River

USGS scientist collecting samples of aquatic species from the Pike River, Wis., for later analysis of mercury contamination

Digestive gland from a freshwater snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)
December 31, 2017

Digestive gland from a freshwater snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)

National Wildlife Health Center — Madison, Wisconsin. Digestive gland from a freshwater snail (Lymnaea stagnalis)

Samplers used for sampling hydrophilic organic chemicals from water
December 31, 2017

Samplers used for sampling hydrophilic organic chemicals from water

Passive Sampling Research—Columbia, Missouri. The polar organic chemical integrative sampler (POCIS - on the left) and semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs - on the right) samplers are used for sampling hydrophilic organic chemicals from water. The SPMDs sampler can also be deployed for air sampling.

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: February 8, 2016

USGS Increases Public Access to Scientific Research

The U.S. Geological Survey is implementing new measures that will improve public access to USGS-funded science as detailed in its new public access plan.

Date published: January 13, 2016

Manmade Mercury Emissions Decline 30 Percent from 1990-2010

Between 1990 and 2010, global mercury emissions from manmade sources declined 30 percent, according to a new analysis by Harvard University, Peking University, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, and the University of Alberta. These results challenge long-standing assumptions about mercury emission trends.

Date published: December 18, 2015

EarthWord – Medical Geology

Medical Geology is an earth science specialty that concerns how geologic materials and earth processes affect human health. 

Date published: December 18, 2015

EarthWord – Leachate

No, it’s not a sports drink for leeches, although that’s what it sounds like. Leachate is the solution (or suspension) that forms when liquid travels through a solid and removes some components of that solid with it. Those components may be dissolved or suspended within the liquid.

Date published: December 10, 2015

New Tool Can Determine the Sources of Mercury Found in the Great Lakes

For the first time, land and resource managers in the Great Lakes will be able to distinguish between the various sources of mercury in the environment, a toxic chemical of significant concern in the region. This is thanks to a new tool that “fingerprints” the mercury, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Date published: November 13, 2015

Understanding how Pharmaceuticals in the Environment Affect Fish

Fish health may be affected by pharmaceuticals in treated wastewater released into streams and other water bodies, according to a recent laboratory and field study by the Aquatic Toxicology Laboratory at St. Cloud State University and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Date published: November 12, 2015

Storage and Treatment of Liquid Waste from Landfills Doesn’t Remove All Contaminants, Including Pharmaceuticals

New research from the U.S. Geological Survey details that even after the storage and/or treatment of leachate – liquid waste that moves through or drains from a landfill − it can still contain a multitude of chemicals and reflects the diverse nature of residential, industrial, and commercial waste discarded into landfills in the United States.

Date published: November 5, 2015

Removing Nitrogen from Groundwater Has New Ally: Anammox

USGS scientists have conducted the first-ever field measurements of anammox activity in groundwater, demonstrating that nitrogen removal from groundwater can occur through the action of naturally occurring bacteria. This research was conducted in collaboration with partners from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the University of Connecticut.

Date published: November 4, 2015

Native Bees Foraging in Fields Are Exposed to Neonicotinoid Insecticides and other Pesticides

According to the first-ever study of pesticide residues on field-caught bees, native bees are exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides. This report was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Date published: October 22, 2015

Joint Venture, U.S. Geological Survey Join Forces

Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the U.S. Geological Survey today jointly announced a partnership to address regional challenges from natural hazards, climate and land use change, and continued availability of clean air and water resources.

Date published: September 16, 2015

Predicting Pesticides in Streams and Rivers: Where is Water Quality at Risk?

A new interactive mapping tool provides predicted concentrations for 108 pesticides in streams and rivers across the Nation and identifies which streams are most likely to exceed water-quality guidelines for human health or aquatic life.

Date published: August 20, 2015

USGS Scientists Study Effects of Gold King Mine Release

On August 5, while investigating the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency accidentally triggered the release of approximately three million gallons of acidic, metal-rich mine wastewater from the Gold King Mine into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

Keep up with our science by subscribing to the GeoHealth Newsletter.

Get the Newsletter