USGS Science to Understand Environmental Contaminants and Pathogens of Emerging Concern

Plenary Speaker
Oral Presentation

Prepared by G. Plumlee
USGS, 12201 Sunrise Valley Dr., MS 102, Reston, VA, 20192, United States

Contact Information:; 703-648-6403


USGS integrated Environmental Health programs provide impartial, non-regulatory science to understand environmental contaminants and pathogens. We develop and apply advanced analytical, laboratory, field, and modeling methods to understand, measure, monitor, map, and anticipate what are their actual rather than perceived or feared effects. We examine their sources, how they move through and are transformed in the environment, their exposure pathways to humans and other organisms, their toxicity to and health effects on fish and wildlife, and (with medical and public health experts) their implications for human health. Environmental contaminants and pathogens of emerging concern to policy makers, the public, private sector, and other stakeholders are a key focus of our science. Many of these have been recognized for some time, but only recently have emerged or re-emerged as important policy or public health concerns—examples include cyanobacterial and other microbiological toxins, perfluorinated compounds, and prions. Others have been newly recognized in recent years, such as recently developed classes of pesticides and other chemicals (e.g., those used for land management, pest or invasive species control, food production, fire suppression), new pharmaceuticals and their metabolites, avian influenza virus, produced waters from unconventional oil and gas development, and complex mixtures of contaminants and pathogens produced during disasters. We also examine other topics recently recognized to be of concern, such as contaminants and pathogens in tap water sourced from municipal water treatment / distribution systems or private wells, transgenerational effects of contaminant exposures, and the effects of contaminant exposures on the ability of organisms to ward off infectious diseases.