USGS - science for a changing world

Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Investigations - Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Environment

Lake Mead and Las Vegas Wash, Nevada

The U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service conducted a reconnaissance study to investigate the occurrence of selected human-health pharmaceutical compounds in water samples collected from Lake Mead on the Colorado River and Las Vegas Wash, a waterway used to transport treated wastewater from the Las Vegas metropolitan area to Lake Mead.

Where possible information on environmental occurrence of emerging contaminants is used to help develop and test hypotheses on biological effects. The Lake Mead studies are incorporating occurrence with biological effects investigations.

Thirteen of 33 targeted emerging contaminants were detected in at least one water sample collected between October 2000 and August 2001. All concentrations were less than or equal to 0.20 micrograms per liter. The most frequently detected compounds in samples from Las Vegas Wash were caffeine, carbamazepine (used to treat epilepsy), cotinine (a metabolite of nicotine), and dehydronifedipine (a metabolite of a commonly used antianginal). Less frequently detected compounds in samples collected from Las Vegas Wash were antibiotics (clarithromycin, erythromycin, sulfamethoxazole, and trimethoprim), acetaminophen (an analgesic and anti-inflammatory), cimetidine (used to treat ulcers), codeine (a narcotic and analgesic), diltiazem (an antihypertensive), and 1,7-dimethylxanthine (a metabolite of caffeine). Fewer compounds were detected in samples collected from Lake Mead than from Las Vegas Wash. Caffeine was detected in all samples collected from Lake Mead. Other compounds detected in samples collected from Lake Mead were acetaminophen, carbamazepine, cotinine, 1,7-dimethylxanthine, and sulfamethoxazole.

Available Publications

Boyd, R.A., and Furlong, E.T., 2002, Human-health pharmaceutical compounds in Lake Mead, Nevada and Arizona, and Las Vegas Wash, Nevada, October 2000-August 2001: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-385, 24 p.

More Information

  • Project contact: Kimball Goddard
  • Project contact: Tom Leiker
  • For additional information on USGS water programs in Nevada: http://nevada.usgs.gov/

USGS Home Water Land Resources Science Systems Ecosystems Energy and Minerals Environmental Health Hazards

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: toxics.usgs.gov/regional/emc/mead_vegas.html
Page Contact Information:
Page Last Modified: Monday, 25-Apr-2016 15:41:17 EDT