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: March 13, 2017
Status: Active

Assessing Adverse Outcomes Associated with Exposure of Birds to Flame Retardants

The Challenge: The use of flame retardants (FRs) as additives in a variety of consumer use products, including plastics, textiles, and electronics, is projected to continue and increase for the foreseeable future. Because of unanticipated environmental problems, some FRs have either been banned, restricted, or are being phased-out and replaced by other new and presumably safer FRs. Regrettably...

Date published: January 25, 2017
Status: Active

Do Neonicotinoid Pesticide Seed Coatings Pose a Hazard to Seed-eating Birds?

The Challenge: Neonicotinoids are now the most widely applied class of insecticides in the United States, and are predominantly used in the form of seed treatments. Compared to invertebrates, neonicotinoids are less toxic to wildlife, although genotoxic, cytotoxic, immunological, behavioral and reproductive effects have been reported in studies with birds. At present, little is known about the...

Date published: January 25, 2017
Status: Completed

A Native Earthworm Accumulates Extraordinarily High Concentrations of Lead

The Challenge: As a rule, plants and animals contain lower concentrations of lead than are present in soils that support them. Lead does not biomagnify along trophic levels in ecosystems but instead remains relatively immobile in soil. The exposure of wildlife to soil lead depends mainly on the incidental ingestion of soil. The native earthworm, Eisenoides lonnbergi, is anomalous in its...

Date published: December 19, 2016
Status: Active

Characterization of Avian Hazards Following Chlorophacinone Use for Prairie Dog Control

The Challenge: Black-tailed prairie dogs are considered a keystone species for the prairie habitat. Many avian species are associated with black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in winter.  Raptors feed on prairie dogs and non-raptor avian species forage within prairie dog colonies.  However prairie dogs are also considered agricultural pests. The first generation anticoagulant...

Date published: October 26, 2016
Status: Active

Human Dimensions of Resource Management

Human Dimensions in the context of natural resource management refers to understanding attitudes, preferences, and behaviors of American citizens in order to improve conservation and management of public lands and waters managed by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Human Dimensions at the FORT also includes understanding the users and applications of data and technology in the context of...

Contacts: Rudy Schuster, Ph.D., Crista Straub
Date published: September 19, 2016
Status: Active

Contaminant Exposure, Food Web Transfer and Potential Health Effects on Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay Waterbirds

The Challenge: Agricultural, industrial and urban activities have had major effects on waterbirds in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Some legacy pollutants (PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, flame retardants, metals) pose a potential threat to wildlife in some locations. Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and endocrine disrupting compounds have been detected in water and fish tissue, yet...

Date published: September 19, 2016
Status: Active

Hazard, Risk and Physiologically-based Pharmacokinetic Model for Anticoagulant Rodenticides in Kestrels and Owls

The Challenge: Anticoagulant rodenticides have been identified as being hazardous to predatory and scavenging birds on a global scale. Restrictions on the sale, distribution and packaging of some second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (e.g., brodifacoum, difethialone, bromadiolone and difenacoum) have been instituted by the US EPA, and will likely result in expanded use of first-...

Date published: September 19, 2016
Status: Active

Toxicity of the Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Diclofenac

The Challenge: Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that has been used by veterinarians for the treatment of inflammation, fever and pain in domestic livestock. This drug appears to have been the principal cause of a severe population crash of vultures of the genus Gyps in India and Pakistan. Vultures unintentionally ingested diclofenac when scavenging livestock treated shortly...

Date published: September 19, 2016
Status: Active

Contaminant-related Activities in Support of Client Agencies in the Department of the Interior

The Challenge: The Department of the Interior has extensive responsibilities for management of fish and wildlife, and their supporting habitat. Stewardship activities include assessment of potentially adverse effects of natural and anthropogenic stressors on biota, including chemical contaminants. We assist by providing scientific information to support development of federal guidelines, ...

Date published: September 19, 2016
Status: Active

Toxicity of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers and Other Flame Retardants to Wildlife

The Challenge: Polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs) are contaminants that bioaccumulate and biomagnify in aquatic and terrestrial food webs. Unlike many contemporary pollutants, these flame retardants have increased in the environment over the past 30 years. Studies in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays have documented concentrations of nearly 1 μg/g wet weight of PBDEs in osprey...

Date published: September 19, 2016
Status: Active

Contaminant Exposure and Effects—Terrestrial Vertebrates (CEE-TV) Database Summary Findings for Trust Resources in U.S. Coastal Habitats

The Challenge: The National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been the only large-scale effort that has examined contaminant exposure in terrestrial vertebrates in the United States. Halogenated contaminants, metals, and new pollutants continue to pose hazards to wildlife at many geographic scales. To address this hazard, critical data gaps are being...

Date published: August 16, 2016

Pesticides in the Prairie Pothole Region

Wetlands of the northern Great Plains are crucial feeding grounds for migrating birds and waterfowl embedded in an agricultural landscape. Land use and hydrology can affect adult aquatic insects – crucial prey for critically declining populations of insectivorous birds. Current studies focus on effects of current-use pesticides on adult aquatic insects to inform decision making about...

Filter Total Items: 2,467
Year Published: 2016

Comparison of mercury mass loading in streams to atmospheric deposition in watersheds of Western North America: Evidence for non-atmospheric mercury sources

Annual stream loads of mercury (Hg) and inputs of wet and dry atmospheric Hg deposition to the landscape were investigated in watersheds of the Western United States and the Canadian-Alaskan Arctic. Mercury concentration and discharge data from flow gauging stations were used to compute annual mass loads with regression models. Measured wet and...

Domagalski, Joseph L.; Majewski, Michael S.; Alpers, Charles N.; Eckley, Chris S.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Schenk, Liam N.; Wherry, Susan
Domagalski, J., Majewski, M.S., Alpers, C.N., Eckley, C.S., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Schenk, L. and Wherry, S., 2016. Comparison of mercury mass loading in streams to atmospheric deposition in watersheds of Western North America: Evidence for non-atmospheric mercury sources. Science of the Total Environment, v. 568 (15 October 2016), p. 638-650, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.02.112. [First online 23 March 2016]

Year Published: 2016

Mercury and methylmercury in aquatic sediment across western North America

Large-scale assessments are valuable in identifying primary factors controlling total mercury (THg) and monomethyl mercury (MeHg) concentrations, and distribution in aquatic ecosystems. Bed sediment THg and MeHg concentrations were compiled for > 16,000 samples collected from aquatic habitats throughout the West between 1965 and 2013. The...

Fleck, Jacob; Marvin-DiPasquale, Mark C.; Eagles-Smith, Collin A.; Ackerman, Joshua T.; Lutz, Michelle A; Tate, Michael T.; Alpers, Charles N.; Hall, Britt D.; Krabbenhoft, David P.; Eckley, Chris S.
Fleck, J.A.,Marvin-DiPasquale, M., Eagles-Smith, C.A., Ackerman, J.T., Lutz, M.A., Tate, M., et al., 2016. Mercury and methylmercury in aquatic sediment across western North America. Sci. Total Environ. 727–738.

Year Published: 2016

Using an interlaboratory study to revise methods for conducting 10-d to 42-d water or sediment toxicity tests with Hyalella azteca

Studies have been conducted to refine US Environmental Protection Agency, ASTM International, and Environment Canada standard methods for conducting 42-d reproduction tests with Hyalella azteca in water or in sediment. Modifications to the H. azteca method include better-defined ionic composition requirements for exposure water (i.e., >15 mg/L...

Ivey, Chris D.; Ingersoll, Christopher G.; Brumbaugh, William G.; Hammer, Edward J.; Mount, David R.; Hockett, J. Russell; Norberg-King, Teresa J.; Soucek, Dave; Taylor, Lisa
Ivey, C.D., Ingersoll, C.G., Brumbaugh, W.G., Hammer, E., Mount, D.R., Hockett, J.R., Norberg-King, T.J., Soucek, D., and Taylor, L., 2016, Using an Interlaboratory Study to Revise Methods for Conducting 10-D to 42-D Water or Sediment Toxicity Tests with Hyalella azteca : Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 35: 2439–2447

Year Published: 2016

Influence of bromide on the performance of the amphipod Hyalella azteca in reconstituted waters

Poor performance of the amphipod Hyalella azteca has been observed in exposures using reconstituted waters. Previous studies have reported success in H. azteca water-only exposures with the addition of relatively high concentrations of bromide. The present study evaluated the influence of lower environmentally representative concentrations of...

Ivey, Chris D.; Ingersoll, Christopher G.
Ivey, C.D., and Ingersoll, C.G., 2016, Influence of Bromide on the Performance of the Amphipod Hyalella Azteca in Reconstituted Waters: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 35:2425–2429

Year Published: 2016

A synthesis of terrestrial mercury in the western United States: Spatial distribution defined by land cover and plant productivity

A synthesis of published vegetation mercury (Hg) data across 11 contiguous states in the western United States showed that aboveground biomass concentrations followed the order: leaves (26 μg kg− 1) ~ branches (26 μg kg− 1) > bark (16 μg kg− 1) > bole wood (1 μg...

Obrist, Daniel; Pearson, Christopher; Webster, Jackson; Kane, Tyler J.; Lin, Che-Jen; Aiken, George R.; Alpers, Charles N.

Year Published: 2016

Estimating mercury emissions resulting from wildfire in forests of the Western United States

Understanding the emissions of mercury (Hg) from wildfires is important for quantifying the global atmospheric Hg sources. Emissions of Hg from soils resulting from wildfires in the Western United States was estimated for the 2000 to 2013 period, and the potential emission of Hg from forest soils was assessed as a function of forest type and soil-...

Webster, Jackson; Kane, Tyler J.; Obrist, Daniel; Ryan, Joseph N.; Aiken, George R.

Year Published: 2016

Linking field-based metabolomics and chemical analyses to prioritize contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes basin

The ability to focus on the most biologically relevant contaminants affecting aquatic ecosystems can be challenging because toxicity-assessment programs have not kept pace with the growing number of contaminants requiring testing. Because it has proven effective at assessing the biological impacts of potentially toxic contaminants, profiling of...

Davis, John M.; Ekman, Drew R.; Teng, Quincy; Ankley, Gerald T.; Berninger, Jason P.; Cavallin, Jenna E.; Jensen, Kathleen M.; Kahl, Michael D.; Schroeder, Anthony L.; Villeneuve, Daniel L.; Jorgenson, Zachary G.; Lee, Kathy E.; Collette, Timothy W.
Davis, J.M., Ekman, D.R., Teng, Q., Ankley, G.T., Berninger, J.P., Cavallin, J.E., Jensen, K.M., Kahl, M.D., Schroeder, A.L., Villeneuve, D.L., Jorgenson, Z.G., Lee, K.E. and Collette, T.W., 2016, Linking field-based metabolomics and chemical analyses to prioritize contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes basin: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, v. 35, no. 10, p. 2493–2502, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/etc.3409.

Year Published: 2016

Potential interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality and adjacent land cover in amphibian habitats in the United States

To investigate interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality, and adjacent land cover, we collected samples of water, sediment, and frog tissue from 21 sites in 7 States in the United States (US) representing a variety of amphibian habitats. All samples were analyzed for > 90 pesticides and pesticide degradates, and water and frogs...

Battaglin, William A.; Smalling, Kelly L. ; Anderson, Chauncey W.; Calhoun, Daniel L.; Chestnut, Tara E.; Muths, Erin L.
Battaglin, W.A., Smalling, K.L., Anderson, C., Chestnut, T., and Muths, E., 2016, Potential interactions among disease, pesticides, water quality and adjacent land cover in amphibian habitats in the United States: Science of the Total Environment, v. 566-567, p. 320-332, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.062

Year Published: 2016

Use of mineral/solution equilibrium calculations to assess the potential for carnotite precipitation from groundwater in the Texas Panhandle, USA

This study investigated the potential for the uranium mineral carnotite (K2(UO2)2(VO4)2·3H2O) to precipitate from evaporating groundwater in the Texas Panhandle region of the United States. The evolution of groundwater chemistry during evaporation was modeled with the USGS geochemical code PHREEQC using water-quality data from 100 groundwater...

Ranalli, Anthony J.; Yager, Douglas B.

Year Published: 2016

Disease introduction is associated with a phase transition in bighorn sheep demographics

Ecological theory suggests that pathogens are capable of regulating or limiting host population dynamics, and this relationship has been empirically established in several settings. However, although studies of childhood diseases were integral to the development of disease ecology, few studies show population limitation by a disease affecting...

Manlove, Kezia; Cassirer, E. Frances; Cross, Paul C.; Plowright, Raina K.; Hudson, Peter J.
Manlove, K, EF Cassirer, PC Cross, RK Plowright, PJ Hudson. 2016. Pending revision. Disease introduction is associated with a phase transition in bighorn sheep demographics. Ecology. 00:000-000

Year Published: 2016

Sex differences in contaminant concentrations of fish: a synthesis

Comparison of whole-fish polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and total mercury (Hg) concentrations in mature males with those in mature females may provide insights into sex differences in behavior, metabolism, and other physiological processes. In eight species of fish, we observed that males exceeded females in whole-fish PCB concentration by 17 to...

Madenjian, Charles P.; Rediske, Richard R.; Krabbenhoft, David P.; Stapanian, Martin A.; Chernyak, Sergei M.; O'Keefe, James P.

Year Published: 2016

Evaluation of potential mechanisms of atrazine-induced reproductive impairment in fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) and Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes)

Atrazine has been implicated in reproductive dysfunction of exposed organisms, and previous studies documented decreased egg production in Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) and fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) during 30-d to 38-d exposures to 0.5 µg/L, 5 µg/L, and 50 µg/L atrazine. The authors evaluated possible mechanisms underlying the...

Richter, Catherine A.; Papoulias, Diana M.; Whyte, Jeffrey J.; Tillitt, Donald E.
Richter, C.A., Papoulias, D.M., Whyte, J.J., and Tillitt, D.E., 2016, Evaluation of Potential Mechanisms of Atrazine-Induced Reproductive Impairment in Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas) And Japanese Medaka (Oryzias latipes): Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 35, No. 9, pp. 2230-2238

Filter Total Items: 153
Hydrologists doing field work near Farmington, NM
June 20, 2017

Hydrologists doing field work near Farmington, NM

USGS NMWSC Hydrologists Johanna Blake and Jeb Brown attended the 2nd Annual Conference on Environmental Conditions of the Animas and San Juan Watersheds with Emphasis on Gold King Mine and other Mine Waste Issues in Farmington, NM from June 20-21. Johanna and Jeb presented on the USGS long-term monitoring work of continuous monitoring sondes, water quality, and sediment

April 27, 2017

Potential Corrosivity of Untreated Groundwater in the United States

  • Corrosive groundwater, if untreated, can dissolve lead and other metals from pipes.
  • National maps have been prepared to identify the occurrence of potentially corrosive groundwater in the U.S.
  • These findings have the greatest implication for the 44 million people dependent on domestic wells for drinking water.
Willow Spring in Hack Canyon in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon
April 19, 2017

Willow Spring in Hack Canyon in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon

Willow Spring in Hack Canyon in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. A sign next to the spring says Water Not Suitable for Drinking. The spring has elevated levels of uranium and selenium. The elevated uranium level is most likely not associated with breccia-pipe uranium mining in the area.

April 19, 2017

Prescribed Burn — Tall Timbers Research Station, FL (Drone)

Drone footage of a prescribed fire at Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida (April 19, 2017).

April 19, 2017

Prescribed Burn — Tall Timbers Research Station, FL (Footage of Drone)

See the actual drone footage at: https://www.usgs.gov/media/videos/prescribed-burn-tall-timbers-research-...

Footage of drone during a prescribed fire at Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, Florida (April 19, 2017).

Buras water tank
February 28, 2017

Buras water tank, eye of Hurricane Katrina made its strongest landfall

New Orleans, La., July 29, 2008 -- Buras has become famous as the location where, on August 29, 2005, at 6:10 AM CDT, the eye of Hurricane Katrina, made its strongest landfall. The town's freshing painted water tower stands as a symbol of recovery for the state and the community. Jacinta Quesada/FEMA

Reston Microbiology Laboratory Roll Bottle
December 31, 2016

Iron Reducing Bacteria

Iron Reducing Bacteria
FeRB isolated using a roll bottle technique from the former Uranium Mine near Ronneburg, Germany, Photo credit: Denise Akob, USGS

Team of scientists studied changes in nitrapyrin
December 31, 2016

Team of scientists studied changes in nitrapyrin

A team of scientists studied changes in nitrapyrin — a nitrification inhibitor applied with fertilizers as a bactericide to kill natural soil bacteria for the purpose of increasing crop yields — occurrence associated with land use changes from March to June 2016. The above photographs document the following conditions: recent anhydrous ammonia application (upper left),

Diatom mat used during a feeding experiment to study the dietary uptake of uranium by mayflies
October 18, 2016

Diatom mat used during a feeding experiment to study dietary uptake

Diatom mat used during a feeding experiment to study the dietary uptake of uranium by mayflies

August 3, 2016

Tracking the Migration of Bar-headed Geese

For more information on the movement of wild birds in Asia and how this relates to avian influenza viruses, see http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/ai. The autumn migration routes of bar-headed geese captured before the 2008 breeding season at Qinghai Lake, China, were documented using satellite tracking data. Our results showed that there

August 3, 2016

Avian Influenza Transmission Risk Model Web Application Virtual Tour

The Avian Influenza Transmission Risk Model web application depicts the intricate connections between 16 layers of administrative, environmental, and economic data in an application that runs inside a web browser. To view and manipulate the full web application, please visit http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/ai. The full web application

August 3, 2016

Visual History of Worldwide Avian Influenza Outbreaks

For more information on avian influenza, see http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/ai. Two currently circulating avian influenza viruses, highly pathogenic A(H5N1) and low pathogenic A(H7N9) (hereafter H5N1 and H7N9) are of particular concern due to their high case-fatality rates (approximately 60 and 30% currently), and economic impact to the


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: November 24, 2014

Data Show Northern Idaho Superfund Cleanup is Improving Water Quality

A new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-led efforts to clean up historical mining contamination in the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane River basins are improving water quality. 

Date published: October 23, 2014

Science and Policy Working Together to Help the Delta

Successfully resolving California’s long-standing water supply and ecosystem restoration conflicts in the Delta depends on sound policy based on the best available science.

Date published: September 11, 2014

20-Year Study Shows Levels of Pesticides Still a Concern for Aquatic Life in U.S. Rivers and Streams

Levels of pesticides continue to be a concern for aquatic life in many of the Nation’s rivers and streams in agricultural and urban areas, according to a new USGS study spanning two decades (1992-2011). Pesticide levels seldom exceeded human health benchmarks.

Date published: June 24, 2014

NOAA, Partners Predict an Average ’Dead Zone’ for Gulf of Mexico; Slightly Above-average Hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay

Scientists are expecting an average, but still large, hypoxic or "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year, and slightly above-average hypoxia in the Chesapeake Bay.  

Date published: June 16, 2014

Human Activities Increase Salt Content in Many of the Nation’s Streams

Concentrations of dissolved solids, a measure of the salt content in water, are elevated in many of the Nations streams as a result of human activities, according to a new USGS study.

Date published: May 29, 2014

Ultra-violet Light Works as Screening Tool for Bats with White-nose Syndrome.

Scientists working to understand the devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) now have a new, non-lethal tool to identify bats with WNS lesions —ultraviolet, or UV, light.

Date published: April 8, 2014

Media Advisory: Congressional Briefing on Nutrients and Pesticides in the Nation’s Rivers and Streams

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the Northeast Midwest Institute invite you to a briefing by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) on findings of trends in nutrients and pesticides in the Nation's streams and rivers.

Date published: January 8, 2014

Low Concentrations of De-icing Chemicals Reaching Jackson Hole Groundwater

Low concentrations of chemicals commonly used at airports for de-icing planes were detected in samples of groundwater collected from the Snake River alluvial aquifer beneath the Jackson Hole Airport.

Date published: September 1, 2010

Many Urban Streams Harmful to Aquatic Life Following Winter Pavement Deicing

The use of salt to deice pavement can leave urban streams toxic to aquatic life, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study on the influence of winter runoff in northern U.S. cities, with a special focus on eastern Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

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

Get the Newsletter