U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Environmental Health Science Feature Articles

Short summaries of peer-reviewed journal articles and U.S. Geological Survey reports co-authored by our specialized teams of scientists.

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Landsat image of the south end of San Francisco Bay Estuary and associated wetlands

Scientists Identify Processes that Affect Fish Mercury Concentrations in Estuarine Wetlands

In a study designed to help resource managers when considering mercury exposure risk, scientists determined that sulfur cycling—a process closely related to mercury methylation rates—and ecological conditions that influence exposure are important factors affecting fish mercury concentrations in estuarine wetlands. ...

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Bluegill sunfish - Lepomis macrochirus

Selected Pharmaceuticals Not Likely to Persist in Wild Fish: Results of Uptake and Elimination Testing

Laboratory study shows that both uptake and elimination of selected pharmaceuticals within bluegill tissues is rapid indicating that persistence in bluegills in the environment is likely to be low except in those fish that reside downstream from a consistent, substantial, contaminant source. ...

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Scientist sitting next to a biological safety cabinet in a laboratory

Endocrine Active Chemical Screening Tests Optimized to Improve Precision, Accuracy, and Timeliness

Scientists optimized existing endocrine active chemical screening tests to improve their precision, accuracy, and ability to screen more samples in a shorter time-frame. The optimization was done to more rapidly obtain results from the bioassays so that research on the risks of endocrine active chemical exposure can proceed more rapidly. ...

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A prairie dog runs back to its burrow after being released from a tra

Simple Ways to Avoid Public Exposures to Infectious Wildlife Diseases Summarized

The USGS, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and other disease specialists, have published reports during the past 12 years with information about the geographic distribution of diseases, specific pathogens, disease ecology, and strategies to avoid human exposure and infection for seven zoonotic diseases. ...

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Annas hummingbird - Calypte anna - flying

New Method Can Measure Naturally Occurring Element Exposure in Hummingbirds Without Harm

Seventeen naturally occurring trace elements, including those associated with adverse health impacts when birds are exposed to toxic levels (iron, lead, mercury, selenium, zinc, cadmium, and arsenic) were measured in small birds without harm. The nonlethal method was developed for hummingbirds, with Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna) as a test species and can be more broadly applied to other hummingbird species. ...

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A small stream flows through cornfields

Estimated Toxicity to Aquatic Organisms in Midwestern Streams Driven by Relatively Few of the 227 Pesticides Analyzed

USGS scientists measured and estimated potential acute and chronic toxicity for 227 pesticides in agricultural and urban streams in Midwestern United States. Numerous pesticides were detected at low levels. Atrazine, acetochlor, metolachlor, imidacloprid, fipronil, selected organophosphate insecticides, and carbendazim were determined to be major contributors to toxicity that was estimated in over half of the streams studied. ...

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USGS scientists retrieve sampler from a boat

Understanding Associations between Mussel Productivity and Cyanotoxins in Lake Erie

Study findings indicate that cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins were not associated with mussel mortality at the concentrations present in Lake Erie during a recent study (2013-15), but mussel growth was lower at sites with greater microcystin concentrations. ...

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Scientist uses a syringe to withdraw water from a core

Cyclical Mobilization and Attenuation of Naturally Occurring Arsenic in an Underground Petroleum Plume

Scientists found that naturally occurring arsenic in aquifer sediments was mobilized into groundwater and attenuated through reattachment to sediments within an underground petroleum plume. Understanding these patterns identifies anthropogenic factors that affect arsenic presence and magnitude in groundwater. ...

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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. ...

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Colonies of the bacteria Bacillus globigii on a petri dish

Optimized Approaches Coupled with Interactive Mapping Application Provide a Tool to Visualize the Occurrence of Soil Pathogens

Scientists optimized existing methods to collect and identify microorganisms including Bacillus anthracis, a pathogenic microorganism, in 4,800 soil samples across the United States, and developed a geographic information system (GIS)-based application to visualize microorganism occurrence throughout the United States. ...

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Forsters tern (Sterna forsteri) while hunting in flight

Body Symmetry in Forster's Terns Related to Mercury Exposure

Body symmetry of Forster's terns (Sterna forsteri) in San Francisco Bay was related to blood and feather mercury concentrations. Body asymmetry can affect a bird's fitness by reducing flight efficiency, thus increasing energetic costs (especially during migration) and interrupting normal feeding and breeding behaviors. ...

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A scientist working in a laboratory

Comparison of Predicted and Measured Pharmaceutical Concentrations in Rivers

New study evaluated if predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) of pharmaceuticals (based on pharmaceutical usage data, degree of metabolism in humans, removal in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), and environmental dilution), reflect actual measured environmental concentrations (MECs) in two rivers of different sizes and demographics. ...

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Scientists analyzing samples for viral pathogens

Occurrence of Avian Influenza Virus in Groundwater—Study Provides Baseline Data and Informs Future Studies

This pilot study provided baseline data on avian influenza virus (AIV) occurrence in groundwater underlying poultry farms and documented the challenges for conducting a pathogen transport study during a disease outbreak. ...

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A bloom of cyanobacteria near the shore of Milford Lake, Kansas

New Method Developed to Quantify Spatial Extent of Cyanobacterial Blooms

This study provides a method for quantifying changes in the spatial extent of cyanobacterial blooms at local and regional scales using remotely sensed data to determine if bloom occurrence and size are increasing or decreasing for inland water resources. ...

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Cedar Creek in Congaree National Park, SC, showing old growth bottomland hardwood forest

Sources of Contaminants to Congaree National Park—USGS and National Park Service Working Together

A National Park Service (NPS) and USGS study determined the concentrations, potential for degradation, and potential for aquatic and terrestrial animal exposure to organic contaminants in water and sediment within the flood-plain/aquatic environments of Congaree National Park which is located downstream from urban and agricultural areas. ...

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Dr. Carol U. Meteyer examining a bat

USGS Scientists Receive Award for Pioneering Work on White-Nose Syndrome in Bats

Dr. Carol U. Meteyer and Dr. David S. Blehert received the Tom Thorne and Beth Williams Memorial Award from the Wildlife Disease Association and the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians for their pioneering work on white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. ...

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USGS scientist recording water-quality parameters

Evaluation of Radon in Groundwater and Indoor Air in Pennsylvania

Existing groundwater and indoor air radon-222, hereafter referred to as "radon", concentrations were aggregated and evaluated for 16 geologic units throughout the state of Pennsylvania to provide a better understanding of potential human exposure to radon. ...

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Screen shot of the USGS interactive trend mapper_

Interactive Map Provides a Long-Term Look at Changes in River and Stream Quality

A new USGS interactive map provides a comprehensive, long-term assessment of changes in the chemical composition and quality of our rivers and streams over the last four decades. ...

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Photograph showing white-faced ibis nesting

Efficacy of Eggshell Analyses as a Nonlethal Method to Estimate Mercury Exposure in Bird Embryos

USGS scientists evaluated a nonlethal method to estimate mercury in the embryos of 23 bird species using mercury content in eggshells. This method was effective for a wide range of ages and species. ...

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USGS scientist at a laboratory fume hood preparing experiments

Enhancement of Trichloroethene (TCE) Biodegradation in a Simulated Groundwater System

This laboratory-based study provides information for understanding enhancement of trichloroethene (TCE) biodegradation in a simulated groundwater system. ...

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