Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment
Some chemicals that we use in our everyday lives including medicines (such as prescription and non-prescription drugs), personal hygiene products (for example, soaps, disinfectants, …) and their chemical additives (such as preservatives) are present in the environment and associated with various sources such as municipal wastewater treatment plants, runoff from agricultural and urban land surfaces, and septic systems. These contaminants are referred to collectively as “contaminants of emerging concern” and represent a shift in traditional thinking as many are produced industrially yet are dispersed to the environment from domestic uses.
This investigation identifies and quantifies the environmental sources, presence, and magnitude of environmental contaminants with the underlying theme of understanding the contaminants from their source to a “receptor organism.” The goal of the investigation is to understand the actual versus the perceived health risks to humans or wildlife due to low-level exposures from understudied chemical contaminants in the environment.
Commonly used chemicals (including fragrances, detergents, fire retardants, plasticizers, and antibacterials) transferred to wastewater treatment plants were detected in municipal wastewater biosolids applied to agricultural field plots and subsequently detected in the runoff transported from the plots during precipitation events. ...
Study provides new information about the composition and concentrations of 5 parabens—preservatives in pharmaceuticals and personal care products—present in biosolids collected from 14 municipal wastewater treatment plants across the United States. ...
Study explores the utility and limitations of currently available remotely sensed satellite data for identifying the frequency of harmful algal blooms in the Nation's lakes and reservoirs. This information provides a first step toward the goal of understanding exposure risk to protect the health of humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife. ...
More Science Features
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
Access to publications from this investigation.
- Occurrence and in vitro bioactivity of estrogen, androgen, and glucocorticoid compounds in a nationwide screen of United States stream waters: Conley, J.M., Evans, N., Cardon, M.C., Rosenblum, L., Iwanowicz, L.R., Hartig, P.C., Schenck, K.M., Bradley, P.M., and Wilson, V.S., Environmental Science and Technology, doi:10.1021/acs.est.6b06515 (Advanced Web release) (IN PRESS).
- A method for examining temporal changes in cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom spatial extent using satellite remote sensing: Urquhart, E.A., Schaeffer, B.A., Stumpf, R.P., Loftin, K.A., and Werdell, P.J., 2017, Harmful Algae, v. 67, p. 144-152, doi:10.1016/j.hal.2017.06.001.
- Rainfall-runoff of anthropogenic waste indicators from agricultural fields applied with municipal biosolids: Gray, J.L., Borch, T., Furlong, E.T., Davis, J., Yager, T.J., Yang, Y.-Y., and Kolpin, D.W., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 580, p. 83-89, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.033.
- Expanded target-chemical analysis reveals extensive mixed-organic-contaminant exposure in U.S. streams: Bradley, P.M., Journey, C.A., Romanok, K.M., Barber, L.B., Buxton, H.T., Foreman, W.T., Furlong, E.T., Glassmeyer, S.T., Hladik, M.L., Iwanowicz, L.R., Jones, D.K., Kolpin, D.W., Kuivila, K.M., Loftin, K.A., Mills, M.A., Meyer, M.T., Orlando, J.L., Reilly, T.J., Smalling, K.L., and Villeneuve, D.L., 2017, Environmental Science and Technology, v. 51, no. 9, p. 4792-4802, doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b00012.
- A critical review of the postulated role of the non-essential amino acid, β-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) in neurodegenerative disease in humans: Chernoff, N., Hill, D.J., Diggs, D.L., Faison, B.D., Francis, B.M., Lang, J.R., Larue, M.M., Le, T.-T., Loftin, K.A., Lugo, J.N., Schmid, J.E., and Winnik, W.M., 2017, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health--Part B (Critical Reviews), v. 20, no. 4, p. 1-47, doi:10.1080/10937404.2017.1297592 (Advanced Web release).
- Highlighting the complexities of a groundwater pilot study during an avian influenza outbreak--Methods, lessons Learned, and select contaminant results: Hubbard, L.E., Kolpin, D.W., Fields, C.L., Hladik, M.L., and Iwanowicz, L.R., 2017, Environmental Research, v. 158, p. 212-224, doi:10.1016/j.envres.2017.06.010.
- Satellite monitoring of cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom frequency in recreational waters and drinking water sources: Clark, J.M., Schaeffer, B.A., Darling, J.A., Urquhart, E.A., Johnston, J.M., Ignatius, A.R., Myer, M.H., Loftin, K.A., Werdell, P.J., and Stumpf, R.P., 2017, Ecological Indicators, v. 80, p. 84-95, doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.04.046.
- Occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in finished drinking water and fate during drinking water treatment: Klarich, K.L., Pflug, N.C., DeWald, E.M., Hladik, M.L., Kolpin, D.W., Cwiertny, D.M., and LeFevre, G.H., 2017, Environmental Science and Technology Letters, v. 4, no. 5, p. 168-173, doi:10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00081.
- Aquatic concentrations of chemical analytes compared to ecotoxicity estimates: Kostich, M.S., Flick, R.W., Batt, A.L., Mash, H.E., Boone, J.S., Furlong, E.T., Kolpin, D.W., and Glassmeyer, S.T., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 579, p. 1649-1657, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.06.234.
- The importance of quality control in validating concentrations of contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking water samples: Batt, A.L., Furlong, E.T., Mash, H.E., Glassmeyer, S.T., and Kolpin, D.W., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 579, p. 1618-1628, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.02.127.
- Neonicotinoid insecticide removal by prairie strips in row-cropped watersheds with historical seed coating use: Hladik, M.L., Bradbury, S., Schulte, L.A., Helmers, M., Witte, C., Kolpin, D.W., Garrett, J.D., and Harris, M., 2017, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, v. 241, p. 160-167, doi:10.1016/j.agee.2017.03.015.
- An introduction to joint research by the USEPA and USGS on contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking waters of the United States: Kolpin, D.W., Glassmeyer, S.T., and Furlong, E.T., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 579, p. 1608-1609, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.052.
- Occurrence, temporal variation, and estrogenic burden of five parabens in sewage sludge collected across the United States: Chen, J., Pycke, B.F.G., Brownawell, B.J., Kinney, C.A., Furlong, E.T., Kolpin, D.W., and Halden, R.U., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 593-594, p. 368-374, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.03.162.
- Nationwide reconnaissance of contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking waters of the United States: Glassmeyer, S.T., Furlong, E.T., Kolpin, D.W., Batt, A.L., Benson, R., Boone, J.S., Conerly, O., Donohue, M.J., King, D.N., Kostich, M.S., Mash, H.E., Pfaller, S.L., Schenck, K.M., Simmons, J.E., Varughese, E.A., Vesper, S.J., Villegas, E.N., and Wilson, V.S., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 581–582, p. 909-922, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.12.004.
- Nationwide reconnaissance of contaminants of emerging concern in source and treated drinking waters of the United States--Pharmaceuticals: Furlong, E.T., Batt, A.L., Glassmeyer, S.T., Noriega, M.C., Kolpin, D.W., Mash, H., and Schenck, K.M., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 579, p. 1629-1642, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.128.
- Are exposure predictions, used for the prioritisation of pharmaceuticals in the environment, fit for purpose?: Burns, E.E., Thomas-Oates, J., Kolpin, D.W., Furlong, E.T., and Boxall, A.B.A., 2017, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, doi:10.1002/etc.3842.
- Human health screening and public health significance of contaminants of emerging concern detected in public water supplies: Benson, R., Conerly, O.D., Sander, W., Batt, A.L., Boone, J.S., Furlong, E.T., Glassmeyer, S.T., Kolpin, D.W., Mash, H.E., Schenck, K.M., and Simmons, J.E., 2017, Science of the Total Environment, v. 579, p. 1643-1648, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.146.
- Cyanobacteria of the 2016 Lake Okeechobee and Okeechobee Waterway harmful algal bloom: Rosen, B.H., Davis, T.W., Gobler, C.J., Kramer, B.J., and Loftin, K.A., 2017, Open-File Report 2017-1054.
A collection of photos illustrating this investigation's activities.
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