USGS - science for a changing world

Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Research Projects - Emerging Contaminants

Analytical Methods Development

What we find in the environment often depends on what we look for and how hard we look.

USGS scientists use state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and technologies to test for traces of emerging contaminants in water, sediment, and animal tissue USGS scientists use state-of-the-art laboratory equipment and technologies to test for traces of emerging contaminants in water, sediment, and animal tissue

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The need to understand the processes controlling emerging contaminant sources, transport and fate in the environment, and ecologic and human health effects has increased the need to study environmental occurrence down to trace levels. Methods are being developed to enhance our capabilities for measuring emerging chemical and microbial contaminants and their associated degradation products in the environment. Continual improvements in analytical equipment and capabilities bring looking for virtually any contaminant at lower and lower levels within the realm of possibility. Therefore, prioritization of compounds investigated requires careful evaluation of the potential for their environmental occurrence and persistence, potential health effects, and the appropriate level at which they should be measured. Criteria for establishing priorities for methods development include: the quantities produced and used, pathways for release to the environment, anticipated environmental behavior, information of human and environmental health effects, potential use as an environmental indicator or tracer, and stakeholder priorities.

Current Chemical Analytical Capabilities

Table of Chemicals Currently Analyzed

Current Microbial Analytical Capabilities

Role of Quality Assurance

For studies dealing with emerging contaminants, many of the same compounds being measured in environmental samples are also those potentially being used by either field and/or lab personnel (e.g. pharmaceuticals and personal care products) or being used in field and/or laboratory equipment (e.g. plasticizers, etc.). Thus, it is particularly important that both field and laboratory quality-control protocols are in place to ensure the accuracy of the data being generated.

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More Information

Upcoming Publications

  • Analysis of pharmaceutical and other wastewater compounds in filtered and unfiltered water samples by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry: Zaugg, S.D., Phillips, P.J., and Smith, S.G., U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report (IN PRESS).

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Page Last Modified: Thursday, 10-Jan-2013 17:15:07 EST