Prevention, Investigation and Monitoring
Pacific Region Environmental Contaminants

Questions and Answers

What are contaminants?

What should I do if I find a dead bird/fish kill site?

There has been an oil spill (or hazardous materials spill), what do I do?

How can I find out more about environmental contaminants and the regulations pertaining to specific chemicals?

Environmental contaminants are "chemicals out of place". There are many causes of contamination. For example, pesticides are chemicals useful in agriculture to get rid of weeds or insects. However, when these same chemicals show up in cutthroat trout in streams near the farmer's field, there is a concern. The fish may not reproduce correctly, and deformed juvenile fish may show up. At this point, the pesticide is said to contaminate the environment. Other contamination can come from oil spills, hazardous material spills, and sewage discharges to name a few. Contamination releases can result in fish kills, bird die-offs, and declining numbers of fish and wildlife. There are literally thousands of chemicals for agriculture, industrial, municipal, medicinal, pharmaceutical and household uses which are ultimately released into the environment. Back to Top

Fish/Bird Kill
Call the Fish and Wildlife Service Field Office that is closest to the problem to alert them and/or to receive technical assistance. Remember that these organisms may have died as a result of contact with toxic chemicals. Do not touch them with bare hands or attempt to get in the water. Get professional assistance. Immediately contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife Service Field Office for help. If you are a state or federal wildlife biologist, see our mortality manual for guidance in proper handling, site identification, and other information. Back to Top

Oil Spill
You should contact the State Police of the state where you live. Back to Top

More Information
You can access the Environmental Health Center website to view chemical descriptions, health effects, and regulations. ChemFinder has the chemical structures, other common names, and availability of chemicals.

Last updated: May 27, 2008

Pacific Region Ecological Services
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