Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Agricultural sources of contaminants of emerging concern and adverse health effects on freshwater fish

January 1, 2011

Agricultural contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are generally thought of as certain classes of chemicals associated with animal feeding and production facilities. Veterinary pharmaceuticals used in animal food production systems represent one of the largest groups of CECs. In our review, we discuss the extensive increase in use of antibiotics in animal feeding operations (AFOs) around the world. AFOs are a major consumer of antibiotics and other veterinary pharmaceuticals and over the past decade there has been growing information on the occurrence, release, and fate of CECs from animal food production operations, including the application of pharmaceutical-containing manure to agricultural fields and releases from waste lagoons. Concentrations of CECs in surface and ground water in proximity to AFOs correspond to their presence in the AFO wastes. In many cases, the environmental concentrations of agriculturally-derived CECs are below toxicity thresholds. Hormones and hormone replacement compounds are a notable exception, where chemical concentrations near AFOs can exceed concentrations known to cause adverse effects on endocrine-related functions in fish. In addition, some agricultural pesticides, once thought to be safe to non-target organisms, have demonstrated endocrine-related effects that may pose threats to fish populations in agricultural regions. That is, we have pesticides with emerging concerns, thus, the concern is emerging and not necessarily the chemical. In this light, one must consider certain agricultural pesticides to be included in the list of CECs. Even though agricultural pesticides are routinely evaluated in regulatory testing schemes which have been used for decades, the potential hazards of some pesticides have only recently been emerging. Emerging concerns of pesticides in fish include interference with hormone signaling pathways; additive (or more than additive) effects from pesticide mixtures; and adverse population-level effects at concentrations below predicted toxicity thresholds. Consequently, there is a need to evaluate the environmental concerns related to pesticide exposures to fish populations based on current biological and toxicological techniques. This presentation reviews some of the agricultural chemicals that have emerged as contaminants of concern and potentially threaten fish populations in agricultural watersheds.

Publication Year 2011
Title Agricultural sources of contaminants of emerging concern and adverse health effects on freshwater fish
DOI 10.1142/9789814415019_0028
Authors Donald E. Tillitt, Herbert T. Buxton
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70156408
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program