Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

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Pesticide Contamination and Environmental Exposure

USGS scientist colecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon
USGS scientist collecting a water-quality sample from Zollner Creek, Oregon (USGS Site ID 14201300) for a national-scale investigation of the environmental occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in agricultural and urban settings. The view in the photo is a oblique downstream view from right bank with the Monitor-McKee Road bridge in the background. Photo credit: Hank Johnson, USGS.

New pesticides are developed continually, and increasingly, degradation byproducts of legacy and current-use pesticides are discovered. Information on the environmental occurrence of these chemicals is needed to increase our understanding of the actual versus perceived risks of pesticides on the environment, fish and wildlife, and people. This investigation is providing the science needed to understand how to economically and effectively minimize the health risk due to exposures to low-levels of understudied and current-use pesticides in the environment. This investigation has four objectives:

  1. Developing analytical methods to detect new pesticides, degradates, and pesticide additives,
  2. Characterizing environmental exposure,
  3. Assessing the adverse effects of pesticides alone or in combination with other contaminants, and
  4. Providing scientific information to stakeholders to support sound decision making.


samping flume and rain gage - corn field is in the backgroud

Scientists Examined Native Pollinator Exposure Risk to Neonicotinoids in Native Prairie Strips

Neonicotinoids were not detected in native prairie plants placed next to agricultural fields several years after discontinuation of neonicotinoid seed treatment. In addition, neonicotinoid concentrations were lower or absent in soils and runoff at sites with the native prairie strips. ...

USGS scientists recording inforamtion on water-quality samples and field water-quality parameters

Scientists Start at the Base of the Food Chain to Understand Contaminant Affects on Energy Cycling in Streams

Study examines the potential adverse effects of fungicides on leaf decomposition by microbes and aquatic invertebrates. ...

View of corn fields and USGS rain gage

New Study Measures 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. ...

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Library bookshelf


Access to all publications from this investigation.

New Publications


A Pacific Chorus frog in meadow located in Yosemite National Park.

Photo Gallery

A collection of photos illustrating this investigation's activities.

More Information

USGS Scientist dissecting a summer flounder

Understanding the Occurrence, Transport, and Fate of Current-Use Pesticides in the Environment

The research team for this investigation maintains its own Web pages that provide more information on pesticides studies.



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Page Last Modified: June 14 2017