U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Scientists dissecting fish on a table
U.S. Geological Survey scientists conducting health assessments on smallmouth bass collected from a creek in Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Megan Schall, Pennsylvania State University.

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and provides critical resources to fish, wildlife and people. For more than a decade, recreational fish species have been plagued with skin lesions and intersex conditions (the presence of male and female sex characteristics in the same fish) that biologists attributed to exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Interdisciplinary teams of hydrologists, chemists, geologists, geographers and biologists on the Chesapeake Bay EDC project of the U.S. Geological Survey's Environmental Health Mission Area work collaboratively at field sites and in highly specialized U.S. Geological Survey laboratories with Federal, State and academic research partners. This work provides science to inform decisions on agricultural best management practices, urban storm water management, municipal wastewater treatment and other factors related to sources, movement and possible health effects of EDCs on recreational fish species.

Current Science Questions and Activities

  • What is the relationship between fish health and land-use in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed?
  • How does exposure to EDCs in water and sediment from agriculturally dominated watersheds effect the health of individual smallmouth bass?
  • Can an effects directed analysis approach be used to identify chemical(s) or chemical classes responsible for endocrine disruption in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed?
  • What is the potential influence of mercury on endocrine responses in fish of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed relative to other EDCs?
  • What types of EDCs are accumulating in wild fish tissues in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and what, if any, are their roles in immune response?
  • Do chemicals previously shown to be statistically correlated with intersex in fish in the Chesapeake Bay watershed actually induce intersex and other forms of endocrine disruption?
  • What are the relationships between endocrine disruption in the Chesapeake Bay (for example fish intersex) and known or expected sources of EDCs on the landscape?
  • What are the relationships between landscape variables, chemical contaminant sources, pathways to the aquatic environment, and endocrine disruption in fish in the Chesapeake Bay?

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Page Last Modified: July 11 2018