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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances


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Highlights of our latest research findings, and examples of application to real problems.

USGS scientists Dr. Michael T. Meyer in the labortory

Recognition for a USGS Scientist in Service to Others

USGS scientist Dr. Michael T. Meyer has had a prolific career, publishing 60 journal articles and 45 USGS publications. Mike's publication record has recently led to his designation as a Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, ranking among the top 1 percent of researchers from 2002 to 2012 for most cited documents in their specific field (Environment/Ecology). ...


A USGS scientist prepares a tracer solution in a gas-tight bladder

Chemicals Found in Treated Wastewater are Transported from Streams to Groundwater

USGS scientists studying a midwestern stream conclude that pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in treated wastewater effluent discharged to the stream are transported into adjacent shallow groundwater. Other mobile chemicals found ...


A USGS scientist collecting a water sample from a manhole

Pharmaceuticals and Other Chemicals Common in Landfill Waste

Landfill leachate contains a variety of chemicals that reflect our daily activities, USGS scientists concluded as a result of a nationwide study. Landfills are a common disposal mechanism for our Nation's solid waste from residential, commercial, and industrial sources. The scientists found ...


Schematic of transport of neonicotinoid insecticides from field to stream

Neonicotinoid Insecticides Documented in Midwestern U.S. Streams

Three neonicotinoid insecticides (clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid) were detected commonly throughout the growing season in water samples collected from nine Midwestern stream sites during the 2013 growing season according to a team of USGS scientists. Clothianidin was ...


Reflooded post-harvest rice straw

Water Management During Rice Production Influences Methylmercury Production

USGS scientists found that management practices relating to water drawdown and re-flooding in agricultural wetlands used for rice production contributed to higher methylmercury concentrations in sediment than was found in nonagricultural wetlands that were permanently or seasonally flooded. ...


USGS scientists collecting water-qualty samples from observation wells

Pipeline Crude Oil Spill Still a Cleanup Challenge after 30 Years

Research at a 1979 crude oil spill from a ruptured pipeline has exposed and helped to overcome many challenges facing an effective, cost-efficient cleanup of crude oil, USGS scientists have found. The environmental release of crude oil occurred near ...


Early spring view of a stream in Iowa with melting snow

Toxins Produced by Molds Measured in U.S. Streams

A team of scientists from the USGS and the Agroscope Reckenholz-Tanikon Research Station, Switzerland, found that some mycotoxins are common in U. S. stream waters. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by molds (fungi) that can ...


Areal photograph of lakes in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Complex Response to Decline in Atmospheric Deposition of Mercury

USGS scientists found that mercury concentrations in shallow waters and methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations in fish in four lakes in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, were not consistent with decreases in the wet atmospheric deposition of mercury recorded at nearby monitoring stations for over a decade. ...


A soil sampler in an farm field

Chemicals from Land-Applied Biosolids Persist in Soil

A study by scientists from the USGS and Colorado State University-Pueblo shows that some chemicals in biosolids that are applied to nonirrigated farmland are sufficiently persistent and mobile to move into the soil beneath farm fields. Biosolids are ...


USGS scientists collecting a soil sample

High Levels of Natural Perchlorate in a Desert Ecosystem

Naturally formed perchlorate falls from the atmosphere and accumulates in the soil of a Nevada desert at rates several times greater than previously thought, according to research by USGS and Texas Tech University scientists published in the Journal of Environmental Quality. The study is the first to document how natural perchlorate is ...


A view of a farm fields in Iowa

Common Weed Killer is Widespread in the Environment

USGS scientists report that glyphosate, known commercially by many trade names, and its degradation product AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) are transported off-site from agricultural and urban sources and occur widely in the environment. This study is ...


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