Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

Fathead minnow in a laboratory aquarium
Adult fathead minnows, such as this one, were exposed to treated wastewater effluent that contained pharmaceuticals to help scientists understand the effects of pharmaceuticals on fish in streams. Photo Credit: Megan Cox, St. Cloud State University.

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.

News

A scientist working in a laboratory

Comparison of Predicted and Measured Pharmaceutical Concentrations in Streams

New study evaluated if predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) of pharmaceuticals (based on pharmaceutical usage data, degree of metabolism in humans, removal in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and environmental dilution), reflect actual measured environmental concentrations (MECs) in two stream systems of different sizes and demographics. ...

Scientists analyzing samples for viral pathogens

Occurrence of Avian Influenza Virus in Groundwater—Study Provides Baseline Data and Informs Future Studies

This pilot study provided baseline data on avian influenza virus (AIV) occurrence in groundwater underlying poultry farms and documented the challenges for conducting a pathogen transport study during a disease outbreak. ...

A bloom of cyanobacteria near the shore of Milford Lake, Kansas

New Method Developed to Quantify Spatial Extent of Cyanobacterial Blooms

This study provides a method for quantifying changes in the spatial extent of cyanobacterial blooms at local and regional scales using remotely sensed data to determine if bloom occurrence and size are increasing or decreasing for inland water resources. ...

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USGS sceintists sampling groundwater
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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