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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Investigations - Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

Ecological Effects

Our ability to measure contaminants currently exceeds our understanding of their potential environmental effects.

For most emerging contaminants, there is currently little information regarding their potential toxicological significance in ecosystems -- particularly effects from long-term, low-level environmental exposures. Correlations between occurrence of emerging contaminants in the environment with occurrence in the tissue of aquatic biota are investigated in this project and used where possible in development and testing of hypotheses on biological effects. Evaluating ecological effects of environmental contamination goes beyond observing co-occurrence of contaminants and adverse effects to documenting cause and effect relationships. Research to characterize cause-and-effect relationships requires documentation of contaminant uptake, modes of action, and biological endpoints.

Emerging Chemical Contaminants

Emerging Microbial Contaminants

The contamination of the environment with antibiotics and other emerging contaminants may result in changes in the microbial ecology of that environment, possibly changing the types of bacteria that carry out important ecosystem processes such as nutrient transformations and biomass decomposition. In addition, antibiotic-resistant bacteria may survive and transfer their resistance to other bacteria, perhaps resulting in human health effects. This project examines the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at beaches, on plant surfaces, and in the soil, and relates findings to environmental conditions, and human activities to better understand the implications of emerging chemical use. Such studies have been conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and with local public health departments.

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