Environmental Health - Contaminant Biology

Contaminant Biology Program

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Contaminant Biology Program (CBP) supports specialized teams of biologists, toxicologists, and biochemists who develop and apply advanced laboratory methods and field investigations to understand potential biological health effects from exposures to contaminant and pathogen hazards in the environment. In collaboration with the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program CBP works with our stakeholders within and outside DOI, including other government agencies, industry, NGOs, academia and others, who tell us we are uniquely capable of helping them protect that most precious of resources, health. We do this by filling the data gaps they have prioritized for us.


"Everything we do is designed to safeguard the Nation's health, economy, and resources"

A search of the internet and news cycles on any given day indicate that the American public, health organizations, industry, and government agencies want to know if contaminants and pathogens in the environment pose a risk to the health of humans, pets, livestock, or wildlife. Often the actual risk is not known. Sometimes the potential risk is overstated, sometimes it is unknown, and sometimes it does have an important impact on health.

The public demands answers to questions such as: "Will my pet dog be harmed by swimming in a pond full of algae?"; "Does tapwater from my privately owned well have contaminants or pathogens in it that can harm my health?"; "Do hurricanes increase my chances of getting sick from contaminants or pathogens released into water, air, or soils?"

Industry and government agencies need answers to questions about the actual risk, not the perceived risk, of contaminants associated with natural resource development and utilization.

Hunters and anglers want to know if contaminants or pathogens in the environment are harming fish or game, and whether these animals are safe to eat.

When land resource managers use chemicals to control invasive plants and animals they must understand if the public, or native species such as fish, plants, or wildlife can come in contact with toxic levels in the environment.

Without clear answers to these and similar questions, media attention to and fears about potential health impacts often lead to litigation, economic uncertainties and uninformed decision making.

For more information (PDF, 415KB)


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Featured Publications

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Collaborative Programs

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Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

The USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program develops and applies advanced analytical methods, field investigations, laboratory studies, and modeling capabilities to understand the sources, movement, and exposure pathways of chemical and microbial hazards in the environment.


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