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Multiple lines of evidence for identifying potential hazards to fish from contaminants of emerging concern in Great Lakes tributaries

November 30, 2021

Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs; e.g., pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, pesticides, and industrial chemicals) are omnipresent throughout tributaries to the Great Lakes. Furthermore, CECs are often present at concentrations that are potentially hazardous to aquatic species. Since 2010, we characterized the presence of CECs at 309 sites within 47 Great Lakes tributaries and characterized responses of fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) exposed to river water at a subset of 26 sites within four tributaries. Our work resulted in three independent lines of evidence related to the potential hazards of CEC exposure to fish. First, vulnerability (where vulnerability refers to likelihood) of surface waters to CEC presence was predicted using select watershed characteristics. Second, hazard to fish (where hazard means the potential for adverse biological responses) was predicted using screening values for a subset of CECs. Third, biological responses of fathead minnow exposed to river water in streamside exposures were measured. We assessed the congruence of these three lines of evidence for identifying sites with elevated hazards to CEC exposure. Predicted vulnerability and hazards agreed at 66% of all sites. Where the two indices did not agree, vulnerability often underestimated predicted hazard. When compared with measured biological responses from streamside exposures, predicted hazards agreed for 42% of samples. Furthermore, when predicted hazards for specific effect categories were compared with similar measured biomarkers, 26% and 46% of samples agreed for reproductive and physiological effect categories, respectively. Overall, vulnerability and hazard predictions tended to overestimate the measured biological responses, providing a protective estimate of the potential hazards of CEC exposure to fish. When used together, these three approaches can help resource managers prioritize management activities in minimizing hazards of CEC exposure and can be used by researchers to prioritize studies focused on understanding the hazards of CEC exposure to fish. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2022;18:1246–1259. © 2021 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC). This article has been contributed to by US Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Multiple lines of evidence for identifying potential hazards to fish from contaminants of emerging concern in Great Lakes tributaries
DOI 10.1002/ieam.4561
Authors Sarah M. Elliott, Daniel J. Gefell, Richard L. Kiesling, Stephanie L. Hummel, Chryssa K. King, Charles H. Christen, Satomi Kohno, Heiko L. Schoenfuss
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Index ID 70236428
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Minnesota Water Science Center; Upper Midwest Water Science Center