Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

Household products related to emerging contaminants "Emerging contaminants" can be broadly defined as any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical or any microorganism that is not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and(or) human health effects. In some cases, release of emerging chemical or microbial contaminants to the environment has likely occurred for a long time, but may not have Household products related to emerging contaminantsbeen recognized until new detection methods were developed. In other cases, synthesis of new chemicals or changes in use and disposal of existing chemicals can create new sources of emerging contaminants.

Research is documenting with increasing frequency that many chemical and microbial constituents that have not historically been considered as contaminants are present in the environment on a global scale. These "emerging contaminants" or "contaminants of emerging concern" are commonly derived from municipal, agricultural, and industrial wastewater sources and pathways. These newly recognized contaminants represent a shift in traditional thinking as many are produced industrially yet are dispersed to the environment from domestic, commercial, and industrial uses.

The major goal of the Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment Investigation is to provide information on these compounds for evaluation of their potential threat to environmental and human health. To accomplish this goal, the research activities of this project are to: (1) develop analytical methods to measure chemicals and microorganisms or their genes in a variety of matrices (e.g. water, sediment, waste) down to trace levels, (2) determine the environmental occurrence of these potential contaminants, (3) characterize the myriad of sources and source pathways that determine contaminant release to the environment, (4) define and quantify processes that determine their transport and fate through the environment, and (5) identify potential ecologic effects from exposure to these chemicals or microorganisms.

News

View of corn fields and USGS rain gage

New Study Documents Crop Bactericide, Nitrapyrin, in Iowa Streams

First-ever reconnaissance study documents the off-field transport of nitrapyrin — a nitrification inhibitor applied with fertilizers as a bactericide to kill natural soil bacteria for the purpose of increasing crop yields — to adjacent streams. This study is the first step in understanding the transport, occurrence, and potential effects of nitrapyrin or similar compounds on nitrogen processing in aquatic systems. ...

Four photos depecting effects of exposure of fathead minnows to gestodene

Human Contraceptive Gestodene Affects Fish Reproductive Behavior

Short-term laboratory exposure of adult fathead minnows to the human contraceptive progestin, gestodene (GES), at environmentally relevant concentrations induced rapid and negative effects on reproductive health and suggests that wild fish may be similarly affected. ...

USGS analyst performs DNA extractions in a laboratory

Swine Manure Application as a Source of Hepatitis E Virus and other Livestock-Related Pathogens

The presence of indicator bacteria, hepatitis E virus (HEV), and numerous bacterial pathogen genes increased following precipitation-induced runoff events in streams draining adjacent land surfaces in Iowa where swine manure was recently applied. ...

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USGS Hydrologists Tristen Tagliaferri and Irene Fisher sampling shallow groundwater downgradient of septic systems in Kismet, New York (Fire Island), December 2011. Photo Credit: Chris Schubert, USGS.

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  • Rainfall runoff of anthropogenic waste indicators from agricultural test plots applied with municipal biosolids: Gray, J.L., Borch, T., Furlong, E.T., Davis, J., Yager, T.J., Yang, Y.-Y., and Kolpin, D.W., Science of the Total Environment (IN PRESS).

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