Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

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 evaluate their potential environmental and human health significance. This project activity has two-fold objectives: (1) develop methods to measure new pesticides and their byproducts in samples of various environmental media at concentrations relevant to assessing their persistence, transport, and fate; and (2) gather information on the environmental occurrence of these chemicals in sensitive and/or susceptible ecosystems near areas of common use of the pesticide, such as areas of similar land use, crop types, and/or farming practices. Pesticide-use studies in selected settings include:

A view of a farm fields in Iowa
Glyphosate is frequently applied to corn and soybeans growing areas like these in Iowa. USGS scientists have found that glyphosate and its degradation product AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) are transported off-site from agricultural and urban sources and occur widely in the environment. Photo Credit: William A. Battaglin, USGS.

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