Expanded Target-Chemical Analysis Reveals Extensive Mixed-Organic-Contaminant Exposure in U.S. Streams

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Surface water from 38 streams nationwide was assessed using 14 target-organic methods (719 compounds). Designed-bioactive anthropogenic contaminants (biocides, pharmaceuticals) comprised 57% of 406 organics detected at least once. The 10 most-frequently detected anthropogenic-organics included eight pesticides (desulfinylfipronil, AMPA, chlorpyrifos, dieldrin, metolachlor, atrazine, CIAT, glyphosate) and two pharmaceuticals (caffeine, metformin) with detection frequencies ranging 66-84% of all sites. Detected contaminant concentrations varied from less than 1 ng L-1 to greater than 10 μg L-1, with 77 and 278 having median detected concentrations greater than 100 ng L-1 and 10 ng L-1, respectively. Cumulative detections and concentrations ranged 4-161 compounds (median 70) and 8.5-102 847 ng L-1, respectively, and correlated significantly with wastewater discharge, watershed development, and toxic release inventory metrics. Log10 concentrations of widely monitored HHCB, triclosan, and carbamazepine explained 71-82% of the variability in the total number of compounds detected (linear regression; p-values: < 0.001-0.012), providing a statistical inference tool for unmonitored contaminants. Due to multiple modes of action, high bioactivity, biorecalcitrance, and direct environment application (pesticides), designed-bioactive organics (median 41 per site at μg L-1 cumulative concentrations) in developed watersheds present aquatic health concerns, given their acknowledged potential for sublethal effects to sensitive species and lifecycle stages at low ng L-1.




Bradley, P. M., Journey, C. A., Romanok, K. M., Barber, L. B., Buxton, H. T., Foreman, W. T., … Villeneuve, D. L. (2017). Expanded Target-Chemical Analysis Reveals Extensive Mixed-Organic-Contaminant Exposure in U.S. Streams. Environmental Science and Technology, 51(9), 4792–4802. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.7b00012

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