Ecological Services
Northeast Region
Regional Issue: Emerging contaminants of concern
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists check trap nets in the Genesee River. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists check trap nets in the Genesee River.
Credit: USFWS

Are your medicines and hair products impacting the health of wildlife?

The Problem and Effects:
Contaminants of emerging concern include chemicals from flame retardants, discarded medicines, personal care products, plasticizers, new pesticides and detergents. They are associated with agricultural and urban runoff, combined sewer overflows, wastewater treatment plants and industrial waste.

These emerging contaminants are spreading and becoming more common in the environment, and they are frequently not regulated by state or federal water quality programs. These substances may be toxic to fish and wildlife, or they may have other non-lethal biological effects, such as feminization of male fish.

What We're Doing:
For the past two years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Contaminants biologists in New York State have studied whether contaminants of emerging concern pose a threat to fish and wildlife in the Genesee River near Rochester, N.Y.

In 2010 and 2011, the Service collected fish, water and sediment from a number of locations in the Genesee River. Partners from the U.S. Geological Survey evaluated fish for signs of internal and external tumors and other developmental abnormalities that may be caused by exposure to contaminants.

Preliminary results reveal that samples from the lower Genesee River water and sediment contained chemicals such as hormones (estrogen), pesticides (DEET, atrazine), wastewater treatment plant indicators (caffeine, cholesterol), medicine (lidocaine), flame retardants, coal tar, detergents and plasticizers.

This research is part of a larger study by the Service throughout the Great Lakes that is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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Last updated: July 16, 2015