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"Everything we do is designed to safeguard the Nation's health, economy, and resources"
The USGS Contaminant Biology and the Toxic Substances Hydrology Programs work in tandem to provide unbiased science for understanding the occurrence, transport, and effects of environmental contaminant exposure.View Full Web Site
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
The public worries that uranium in natural geologic formations, mine tailings, dusts, water, and other geologic materials can pose a health hazard to humans and wildlife.
Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at a field site in the Grand Canyon region of the United States have shown:
Elevated uranium concentrations (above the drinking...
Science from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other entities has shown that a mixture of natural and synthetic estrogens and other similar chemicals are discharged from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to streams and rivers.
USGS and University of Colorado hydrologists, chemists, geologists, and biologists studied the chemistry and biology of Boulder Creek downstream of Boulder ...
There are no national databases or tracking of the number or frequency of manure spills in the United States. Some past spills have been shown to result from events such as equipment failures, over-application of manure to agricultural fields, runoff from open feedlots, storage overflow, accidents with manure transporting equipment, severe weather events, or possibly deliberate actions....
Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at field sites in Northeastern US after Hurricane Sandy have shown:
- Metal contaminants were released to the environment after Hurricane Sandy due to some dune restoration activities.
- In other locations the storm actually decreased contaminant exposures to bottom dwelling aquatic biota. ...
A growing number of human gastrointestinal, respiratory, dermatologic, and neurologic effects, as well as dog and livestock illnesses and deaths, in the United States have been linked to exposures to algal blooms in recreational lakes and stock ponds.
Some of the blooms contain cyanobacteria, which have the potential to produce cyanotoxins in freshwater systems. However, the connection...
Safe Drinking Water Act compliance addresses the safety of public-supply water systems. The composition of public-supply drinking water is generally only tested at the treatment plant, and not at the tap after traveling through the water distribution system. Only lead and copper are tested at a subset of residential and other taps. Testing of water in private wells is rare unless local health...
Are Tumors in Wild Fish Harvested in the Great Lakes Region Related to Contaminants in Water Resources?
Our specialized teams of scientists are working in our laboratories and at field sites around the Great Lakes in collaboration with other federal and state resource agencies to document the prevalence of skin and liver tumors. Tumor prevalence in white suckers (Catostomus commersonii), a fish harvested as a food source by local communities, is related to the degree of urbanization in watershed...
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.
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...
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...
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...
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...
The Environmental Health Mission Area develops methods and tools to measure and assess the environmental health of watersheds and the organisms living in them. Our investigations generate and interpret environmental contaminant, biological activity, and effects data. All of which is provided to the public in our publications.
The Environmental Health Mission Area (EHMA) supports science across the nation.
Shoreline change rates in salt marsh units in Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey
This dataset displays shoreline change rates at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (EBFNWR), which spans over Great Bay, Little Egg Harbor, and Barnegat Bay in New Jersey, USA
Examination of contaminant exposure and reproduction of ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) nesting in Delaware Bay and River in 2015
Reproductive Data for All Nests Monitored; Data for Mayfield Analysis; Eggshell thickness, nestling morphological measurements, nestling plasma stable isotopes, and nestling red blood cell oxidative DNA damage; Egg organochlorine pesticide, total PCB, flame retardants, and PCB toxic equivalent concentrations; Fish capture by osprey; Fish pools and size for contaminant analysis; Fish...
Exposure of wildlife to Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) is likely to occur but evidence of hazard and risk is limited. One exposure pathway that has received attention is trophic transfer of APIs in a water-fish-osprey food chain.
Toxicity Assessment of Sediments Collected Upstream and Downstream of the White Dam in Clarke County, Georgia
A breach in the White Dam has been proposed to facilitate fish passage. As a Technical Assistance project, the U.S. Geological Survey provided toxicity assessments of sediment samples collected by USEPA personnel.
The exposure of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) to lead and cadmium and the potential associated toxic effects were examined at three sites contaminated with lead in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District and at a reference site.
Nutrient levels in surface waters of the Conasauga River and other tributaries within the Coosa River Watershed
Data Release for Report describes surface-water nutrient concentrations from multiple sites on the Conasauga River in northern Georgia in comparison with rivers in adjacent watersheds
The Sediment-bound Contaminant Resiliency and Response (SCoRR) Mapping Application was developed to allow users to visualize and view information generated during this study. Additional datasets including Census data, the National Land Cover Database, and National Hydrography data are also provided for users to generate custom maps.
Examination of contaminant exposure and reproduction of ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) nesting in Delaware Bay and River in 2015
A study of ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) nesting in the coastal Inland Bays of Delaware, and the Delaware Bay and Delaware River in 2015 examined spatial and temporal trends in contaminant exposure, food web transfer and reproduction. Concentrations of organochlorine pesticides and metabolites, polychlorinated biphenyls...Rattner, Barnett A.; Lazarus, Rebecca S.; Bean, Thomas G.; McGowan, Peter C.; Callahan, Carl R.; Erickson, Richard A.; Hale, Robert
Female hatchling American kestrels have a larger hippocampus than males: A link with sexual size dimorphism?
The brain and underlying cognition may vary adaptively according to an organism’s ecology. As with all raptor species, adult American kestrels (Falco sparverius) are sexually dimorphic with females being larger than males. Related to this sexual dimorphism, kestrels display sex differences in hunting and migration, with females ranging more widely...Guigueno, Melanie F.; Karouna-Renier, Natalie K.; Henry, Paula F. P.; Head, Jessica A.; Peters, Lisa E.; Palace, Vince P.; Letcher, Robert J.; Fernie, Kimberly J.
Toxicity assessment of sediments collected upstream and downstream from the White Dam in Clarke County, Georgia
The White Dam in Clarke County, Georgia, has been proposed for breaching. Efforts to determine potential risks to downstream biota included assessments of sediment collected in the vicinity of the dam. Sediments collected from sites upstream and downstream from the dam were evaluated for toxicity in 42-day exposures using the freshwater amphipod...Lasier, Peter J.
Anomalous bioaccumulation of lead in the earthworm Eisenoides lonnbergi (Michaelsen)
Lead concentrations in soil organisms are usually well below those in the associated soil and tend to decrease with each higher trophic level in a food chain. Earthworms of the species Eisenoides lonnbergi provide an exception to this observation, accumulating very high concentrations of lead from acidic soils. Earthworms belonging to...Beyer, W. Nelson; Codling, Eton E.; Rutzke, Michael A.
Environmental contaminants of health-care origin: Exposure and potential effects in wildlife
A diverse range of fauna could be exposed to active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) via diet, dermal absorption or bioconcentration. Low level exposures of free-ranging wildlife to APIs has only been demonstrated for a few pathways (e.g., ingestion of fish in estuaries by piscivorous birds), and many remain hypothetical (e.g., ingestion of...Bean, Thomas; Rattner, Barnett A.
Biomarker responses of Peromyscus leucopus exposed to lead and cadmium in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District
Biomarker responses and histopathological lesions have been documented in laboratory mammals exposed to elevated concentrations of lead and cadmium. The exposure of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) to these metals and the potential associated toxic effects were examined at three contaminated sites in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining...Beyer, W. Nelson; Casteel, Stan W.; Friedrichs, Kristen R.; Gramlich, Eric; Houseright, Ruth A.; Nichols, John W.; Karouna-Renier, Natalie K.; Kim, Dae Young; Rangen, Kathleen; Rattner, Barnett A.; Schultz, Sandra
Anticoagulant rodenticide toxicity to non-target wildlife under controlled exposure conditions
Much of our understanding of anticoagulant rodenticide toxicity to non-target wildlife has been derived from molecular through whole animal research and registration studies in domesticated birds and mammals, and to a lesser degree from trials with captive wildlife. Using these data, an adverse outcome pathway identifying molecular initiating and...van den Brink, Nico; Elliott, J.; Shore, R.; Rattner, B.; Rattner, Barnett A.; Mastrota, F. Nicholas
Anticoagulant rodenticides and wildlife: Concluding remarks
Rodents are known to affect human society globally in various adverse ways, resulting in a widespread demand for their continuous control. Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) have been, and currently remain, the cornerstone of rodent control throughout the world. Although alternative control methods exist, they are generally less effective. ARs work...van den Brink, Nico W.; Elliott, John E.; Shore, Richard F.; Rattner, Barnett A.
Anticoagulant rodenticides and wildlife: Introduction
Rodents have interacted with people since the beginning of systematic food storage by humans in the early Neolithic era. Such interactions have had adverse outcomes such as threats to human health, spoiling and consumption of food sources, damage to human infrastructure and detrimental effects on indigenous island wildlife (through inadvertent...van den Brink, Nico W.; Elliott, John E.; Shore, Richard F.; Rattner, Barnett A.; van den Brink, Nico W.; Elliott, John E.; Shore, Richard F.; Rattner, Barnett A.
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.
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.
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.
Diagram showing how wastewater discharging from wastewater treatment plants might flow downstream and end up as part of the source water for drinking-water treatment plants.
Eosin-nigrosin staining of spermatozoa from common carp (Cyprinus carpio) testes collected from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
Microscopic video imaging is used for computerized analysis of sperm motility parameters
Tablet-enabled field forms have been developed to help coordinate field efforts, collect site information, GPS coordinates, photos, and control data collection.
A USGS scientist prepares a sample to test the effect of antibiotics on denitrifying bacteria within a glove box. A glove box allows scientists to work with samples in an anaerobic (no oxygen) atmosphere, the conditions under which denitrification occurs.
Using the 384-well plate format, a single zebrafish embryo is tested in each well. This is an example of a 72 hour post fertilization fli1:egfp zebrafish (3 millimeters long) imaged under a fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) filter.
Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System
Molecular Devices ImageXpress† High-Content Imaging System that can generate more than 25,000 images in less than 5 hours of automated image acquisition.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist working on data analysis of cyanotoxins in water samples
Keith A. Loftin, USGS, is the lead scientist for algal and cyanobacterial toxins
USGS scientists evaluating the nebulizer assembly in a mixed mode ionization source of a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer used to measure individual cyanotoxins
Cover of the 2018 publication, "California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment: Statewide Summary Report."
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
The public can now access information about active wildfires across the country using a smartphone.
The Cosumnes River watershed has seasonal, non-point source hotspots for total mercury and methylmercury production, which discharge to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in north-central California. To reduce mercury loads to the Delta, researchers created open-water deep cells at the downstream end of wetlands.
Lower levels of environmental contaminants—including pesticides, flame retardants and other pollutants—were recently found in osprey eggs in the Delaware Estuary compared to those tested from the 1970s through the early 2000s.
Lead exposure in wildlife is a widespread management and conservation concern. Low-cost, portable lead analyzers have improved access and cost-effectiveness of determining lead concentrations in animal blood samples, yet analytical bias and lack of quality-assurance–quality-control measures can confound results.
New research has revealed significant changes to Alaska’s landscape in recent decades
U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners have created an onsite, time-saving technique for building inspectors to ascertain whether vermiculite insulation contains amphibole asbestos. The findings are featured in the April 2 edition of American Mineralogist.
Six years ago, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had trouble breathing normally. The list of potential causes that soldiers were exposed to seemed endless: smoke from burn pits used for trash disposal, desert dust, diesel generator exhaust, humidity and temperature extremes, explosives, and city trash and sewage.
Every few days, a fleet of satellites orbiting 700 kilometers above the Earth scans the continental United States to help keep Americans safe. But these eyes in the sky aren’t seeking terrorists or enemy combatants: they scrutinize lakes to locate problems of the microbial variety, namely cyanobacteria.
A joint collaboration between EPA, NOAA, NASA, and USGS scientists has demonstrated that satellite imagery can be used to track the frequency of harmful algal blooms. The satellites can accomplish this by measuring certain algal pigments in the water.
New USGS Science Plan Designed to Help Plan for Drought Effects on People, Communities, and Ecosystems
The U. S. Geological Survey is poised to bring a dynamic array of science and tools to help decision-makers manage and offset effects of increased drought across the United States, according to a drought plan report released today.
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.