Midwest Region Environmental Contaminants Conserving the nature of America


Conserving the Nature

of America

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.



U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Service in the Midwest

The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Find a location near you.

The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
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Contaminants of Emerging Concern


The Service initiated research in the Great Lakes to detect and identify “contaminants of emerging concern” and evaluate the effects of those contaminants on fish and wildlife. The contaminants of emerging concern studies are a component of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


Service biologists in a small boat, about to release a net.


Fish collection for the Contaminants of Emerging Concern Project and evaluation of fish tumors and deformities for the St. Louis River, Minnesota.

Photo by USFWS

Contaminants of emerging concern are chemicals used in personal care products, on farms or by industry and business. The chemicals are found in a variety of commonly used products such as deodorants, steroids, hormones, prescription and non-prescription drugs, plasticizers, pesticides and detergents. Many of these contaminants are not regulated or inadequately regulated despite evidence suggesting that fish and wildlife suffer developmental and reproductive effects when exposed. Although we are able to detect these substances in surface water, little is known about their effects on fish and wildlife populations. 


In 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put a team together to initiate research that explored the impacts of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in the Great Lakes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are team members and funding is provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative with direction from EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office.


Initial goals of the CEC project were to identify the types, concentrations, and distributions of CECs in the Great Lakes Basin to assess the potential for CECs to affect fish and wildlife populations. Water and sediment samples were collected from across the Great Lakes watershed from 2010 to 2014.


Initial investigations revealed the ubiquity of CECs across the Great Lakes, which warranted exploration of the potential impacts to aquatic resources. Inclusion of university partners has led to both field and laboratory work examining how exposure to CECs can impact the health of fish and freshwater mussels.


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