Ecological Services: Environmental Contaminants
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Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:

What’s out there and why should we care?

Service biologists perform health assessments on fish exposed to contaminants of emerging concern from

Service biologists perform health assessments on fish exposed to contaminants of emerging concern from

the Maumee River, Toledo Ohio.

Photo by USFWS



What man-made chemicals are in our rivers and lakes? What impacts do they cause? Should we be concerned? Biologists from Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working to answer these questions with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Service is working in partnership with scientists from other federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, Army Corps of Engineers, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and numerous universities to investigate contaminants of emerging concern in the Great Lakes.


Contaminants of emerging concern include a wide range of products we use daily, such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products and agricultural chemicals. If you took a shower this morning, used shampoo, soap and lotion, and brushed your teeth, you used these contaminants! The chemicals, which are flushed down the drain, then go to waste water treatment plants which are not always effective in breaking them down. Treated water, which can still have contaminants or their byproducts, is then released into waterways, and now these contaminants are being found in the environment.


While scientists understand the effects of many of these chemicals when used as instructed, they know little about what happens when hundreds or thousands of these types of contaminants mix in the environment. What happens to aquatic animals when chemicals from shampoo, soap, lotion and toothpaste, among chemicals from thousands of other common use items, get in their water?


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Last updated: December 12, 2016