Mission Areas

Environmental Health

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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: 37
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...

Date published: August 12, 2016

Potential Toxicity of Multiple Metals Associated with PGE Deposits

Water quality and aquatic life standards that are set by Federal and state regulatory agencies are used to evaluate the quality of our nation’s water and the health of aquatic ecosystems. These standards currently are based on hardness of the water and are determined for single metals, not for mixtures of metals that are typically found in natural systems. Metal mixtures can potentially be...

Date published: April 26, 2016
Status: Active

Monarch Butterfly Utilization of Milkweed Plants Grown in Close Proximity to Corn Treated by a Neonicotinoid Insecticide (Seed Treatment)

Monarch butterfly populations have declined sufficiently to result in noticeably fewer overwintering at sites in central Mexico as in California.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Watershed Contamination from Metal and Uranium Mining

The goal of this investigation is to provide improved information and tools to support decisions related to management, risk assessment, remediation planning, and mitigation of the effects of hard-rock metal mining and uranium mining on watersheds and ecosystems.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Fate and Effects of Wastes from Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

This study is assessing the environmental health risks associated with wastes from unconventional oil and gas development by characterizing waste materials, identifying potential environmental pathways, and evaluating the potential effects on organisms from exposure to unintended waste releases.

Date published: April 19, 2016

Sewage-Contaminated Ground Water

The USGS is investigating a wastewater plume in a shallow aquifer near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to increase the understanding of the physical, chemical, and microbiological processes that affect the fate and transport of contaminants in groundwater.

Filter Total Items: 56
Year Published: 2017

Editor’s note

Heavy metal contamination at shooting ranges is well documented (e.g., Heier et al. 2009; Islam et al. 2016). Primarily lead, but also copper, zinc, and antimony often occur at high concentrations in shooting range soils; cadmium, nickel, silver, and arsenic may also be present (Cao et al. 2003; Islam et al. 2016). These metals represent a...

Schmitt, Christopher J.
Schmitt, C. J., 2016, Editor’s Note. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Online First 28 December 2016: 1-1

Year Published: 2017

Organic contamination in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) nestlings at United States and binational great Lakes Areas of Concern

Contaminant exposure of tree swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, nesting in 27 Areas of Concern (AOCs) in the Great Lakes basin was assessed from 2010 to 2014 to assist managers and regulators in their assessments of Great Lakes AOCs. Contaminant concentrations in nestlings from AOCs were compared with those in nestlings from nearby non-AOC sites....

Custer, Thomas W.; Custer, Christine M.; Dummer, Paul; Goldberg, Diana R.; Franson, J. Christian; Erickson, Richard A.
Custer, T.W., Cuser, C., Dummer, P., Goldberg, D.R., Franson, J.C., Erickson, R.A. 2016. Organic contamination in tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) nestlings at United States and binational great Lakes Areas of Concern. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. DOI: 10.1002/etc.3598.

Year Published: 2016

Geologic materials and human health: Chapter 5.14

No abstract available.

Plumlee, Geoffrey S.; Morman, Suzette A.
IP-072283 Plumlee, G.S., and Morman, S.A., 2016, Geologic materials and human health: The Geoscience Handbook 2016—AGI Data Sheets, Fifth Edition, American Geosciences Institute, p. 78-80.

Year Published: 2015

Chemical mixtures and environmental effects: a pilot study to assess ecological exposure and effects in streams

Assessment and management of the risks of exposure to complex chemical mixtures in streams are priorities for human and environmental health organizations around the world. The current lack of information on the composition and variability of environmental mixtures and a limited understanding of their combined effects are fundamental obstacles to...

Buxton, Herbert T.; Reilly, Timothy J.; Kuivila, Kathryn ; Kolpin, Dana W.; Bradley, Paul M.; Villeneuve, Daniel L.; Mills, Marc A.

Year Published: 2015

Lapland longspur mortality at an oil well drilling rig site, Laramie County, Wyoming

Two hundred fifty-one Lapland longspur (Calcarius lapponicus) carcasses were recovered around an oil well drilling rig in Laramie County, Wyoming, USA, on December 13–14, 2010, apparent victims of a winter storm and “light entrapment” from the lights on the drilling rig during foggy conditions. We found Lapland longspur carcasses distributed...

Ramirez, Pedro; Dickerson, Kimberly K.; Lindstrom, Jim; Meteyer, Carol U.; Darrah, Scott

Year Published: 2014

Family inspiration for my career(s) in transdisciplinary science

I have been fortunate to spend the last 31 years working for an organization that has allowed me to make multiple career shifts across earth science disciplines and to collaborate with people in fields well beyond the earth sciences. Many inspirational colleagues have guided me along this transdisciplinary science path, but perhaps my biggest...

Plumlee, Geoffrey S.
Plumlee, G.S., 2014, Family inspiration for my career(s) in transdisciplinary science. Earth Magazine, December, p. 38-39.

Year Published: 2013

Energy and Minerals Science at the U.S. Geological Survey

The economy, national security, and standard of living of the United States depend on adequate and reliable supplies of energy and mineral resources. Based on population and consumption trends, the Nation’s and World’s use of energy and minerals is expected to grow, driving the demand for scientific understanding of resource formation, location,...

Ferrero, Richard C.; Kolak, Jonathan J.; Bills, Donald J.; Bowen, Zachary H.; Cordier, Daniel J.; Gallegos, Tanya J.; Hein, James R.; Kelley, Karen D.; Nelson, Philip H.; Nuccio, Vito F.; Schmidt, Jeanine M.; Seal, Robert R.
Energy and Minerals Science at the U.S. Geological Survey; 2013; FS; 2013-3111; Ferrero, Richard C.; Kolak, Jonathan J.; Bills, Donald J.; Bowen, Zachary H.; Cordier, Daniel J.; Gallegos, Tanya J.; Hein, James R.; Kelley, Karen D.; Nelson, Philip H.; Nuccio, Vito F.; Schmidt, Jeanine M.; Seal, Robert R.

Year Published: 2013

Water quality, sediment characteristics, aquatic habitat, geomorphology, and mussel population status of the Clinch River, Virginia and Tennessee, 2009-2011

Chemical, physical, and biological data were collected during 2009-2011 as part of a study of the Clinch River in Virginia and Tennessee. The data from this study, data-collection methods, and laboratory analytical methods used in the study are documented in this report. The study was conducted to describe the conditions of the Clinch River and to...

Krstolic, Jennifer L.; Johnson, Gregory C.; Ostby, Brett J.K.
Water quality, sediment characteristics, aquatic habitat, geomorphology, and mussel population status of the Clinch River, Virginia and Tennessee, 2009-2011; 2013; DS; 802; Krstolic, Jennifer L; Johnson, Gregory C; Ostby, Brett J. K.

Year Published: 2013

Meeting the Science Needs of the Nation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy-- A U.S. Geological Survey Science Plan for Support of Restoration and Recovery

n late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy came ashore during a spring high tide on the New Jersey coastline, delivering hurricane-force winds, storm tides exceeding 19 feet, driving rain, and plummeting temperatures. Hurricane Sandy resulted in 72 direct fatalities in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States, and widespread and substantial...

Buxton, Herbert T.; Andersen, Matthew E.; Focazio, Michael J.; Haines, John W.; Hainly, Robert A.; Hippe, Daniel J.; Sugarbaker, Larry J.
Meeting the Science Needs of the Nation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy-- A U.S. Geological Survey Science Plan for Support of Restoration and Recovery; 2013; CIR; 1390; Buxton, Herbert T.; Andersen, Matthew E.; Focazio, Michael J.; Haines, John W.; Hainly, Hippe, Daniel J.; Sugarbaker, Larry J.

Year Published: 2013

Environmental health science at the U.S. Geological Survey

USGS environmental health science focuses on the environment-health interface. Research characterizes the processes that affect the interaction among the physical environment, the living environment, and people, as well as the factors that affect ecological and human exposure to disease agents and the resulting toxicologic or infectious disease....

Buxton, Herbert T.; Bright, Patricia R.
Environmental health science at the U.S. Geological Survey; 2013; FS; 2012-3142; Buxton, Herbert T.; Bright, Patricia R.

Year Published: 2013

The role of airborne mineral dusts in human disease

Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) is generally acknowledged to increase risk for human morbidity and mortality. However, particulate matter (PM) research has generally examined anthropogenic (industry and combustion by-products) sources with few studies considering contributions from geogenic PM (produced from the Earth by natural processes...

Morman, Suzette A.; Plumlee, Geoffrey S.
Suzette A. Morman, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, The role of airborne mineral dusts in human disease, Aeolian Research, Volume 9, 2013, Pages 203-212.

Year Published: 2012

The U.S. Geological Survey's TRIGA® reactor

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) operates a low-enriched uranium-fueled, pool-type reactor located at the Federal Center in Denver, Colorado. The mission of the Geological Survey TRIGA® Reactor (GSTR) is to support USGS science by providing information on geologic, plant, and animal specimens to advance methods and techniques unique to...

DeBey, Timothy M.; Roy, Brycen R.; Brady, Sally R.
The U.S. Geological Survey's TRIGA® reactor; 2012; FS; 2012-3093; DeBey, Timothy M.; Roy, Brycen R.; Brady, Sally R.

Filter Total Items: 57
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 livestock industry...

Gulls using beach at the mouth of Kenai River during the personal use dipnet fishery for sockeye salmon.
June 30, 2016

Kenai River during the personal use dipnet fishery for sockeye salmon.

Gulls using beach at the mouth of Kenai River during the personal use dipnet fishery for sockeye salmon; photo taken during sampling trip in July 2016.

Scientists Andrew Ramey, Bjorn Olsen, and Jonas Bonnedahl (L to R) setting a trap for gulls at the Soldotna landfill in 2016.
June 30, 2016

Setting a trap for gulls at the Soldotna landfill in June 2016.

Scientists Andrew Ramey, Bjorn Olsen, and Jonas Bonnedahl (L to R) setting a trap for gulls at the Soldotna landfill in June 2016.

John Reed (USGS scientist) holding a gull marked with a satellite transmitter at the Soldotna landfill in June 2016
June 30, 2016

A gull marked with a satellite transmitter at the Soldotna landfill.

John Reed (USGS scientist) holding a gull marked with a satellite transmitter at the Soldotna landfill in June 2016.

June 15, 2016

Running Rivers

What inspired a USGS geologist to study how dam removal changes rivers. Profile of Amy East.

View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa
April 30, 2016

View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa

View of Old Mans Creek near Iowa City, Iowa upstream from a bridge used for collecting water-quality samples (USGS Site ID: 05455100). This site was part of the sampling network for the first reconnaissance study to assess potential off-field transport...

USGS Laboratory for Infectious Disease and the Environment
February 9, 2016

USGS Laboratory for Infectious Disease and the Environment

U.S. Geological Survey scientists analyzing samples for viral pathogens at the Laboratory for Infectious Disease and the Environment. A pilot study provided baseline data on avian influenza virus (AIV) occurrence in groundwater underlying poultry farms and documented the...

A scientist working in a laboratory
December 31, 2015

A Scientist Working in a Laboratory Measuring Pharmaceuticals in Water

A PhD fellow from the University of York measuring pharmaceutical concentrations in samples collected from the Rivers Foss and Ouse, United Kingdom, during her work at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Laboratory. A new study evaluated if predicted...

USGS scientists retrieve sampler from a boat
September 2, 2015

USGS Scientists Retrieve a Caged Mussel Sampler from a Boat

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists retrieve and process an ecological processing monitoring station. Each station includes a caged native mussel (shown attached to the buoy rope) and a sampler for measuring invertebrate consumers (not shown). Scientists have found that...

Songbird surveys in the Oregon Coast Range
May 29, 2015

Songbird surveys in McDonald Dunn forest

Joan Hagar and Amy Comstock assess the long-term ecological value and characteristics of snags created for wildlife

March 31, 2015

Exploring Causes of Coral Disease

The Hawaiian Islands’ beautiful ocean and beaches attract more than 8.5 million tourists each year. The USGS aims to help Hawaii preserve its underwater natural resources by tracing how oceanography may influence coral disease outbreaks. Looking into contaminants in the freshwater, or how quickly a bay may or may not flush, will help enrich future and past studies about the disease itself....

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: 62
Date published: October 3, 2016

Rising Sea Levels, Coastal Development’s Effect on Gulf Coast Wetlands

As coastal development along the Gulf Coast continues to expand, tidal saline wetlands could have difficulty adjusting to rising sea levels.

Date published: September 26, 2016

Gulls in Alaska Found to Carry Antibiotic Resistant E. coli

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Some gulls in southcentral Alaska are carriers of antibiotic resistant strains of E. coli, according to a new study co-authored by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Date published: July 18, 2016

EarthWord–Fugitive

“Whatcha gonna do when they come for you”-thinks this week’s EarthWord...

Date published: July 11, 2016

EarthWord–Morbidity

When you’re not dead yet, but aren’t feeling well either, there’s an EarthWord for that...

Date published: June 7, 2016

This hurricane season, scientists bring wave action into the picture

New USGS models help predict storm effects on beaches

Date published: May 31, 2016

New Science Challenges Old Assumptions about Harmful Algal Blooms

First-of-its-kind survey shows that algal toxins are found nationwide

Date published: May 10, 2016

New study reveals state of Juniata River watershed headwaters

A new study from the USGS assesses water quality data for the Juniata River Basin in Western Blair County, Pennsylvania.

Date published: May 9, 2016

Evidence of Unconventional Oil and Gas Wastewater Found in Surface Waters near Underground Injection Site

These are the first published studies to demonstrate water-quality impacts to a surface stream due to activities at an unconventional oil and gas wastewater deep well injection disposal site.

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