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Pharmaceuticals, Hormones, and Other Organic Wastewater Contaminants in U.S. Streams, 1999−2000:  A National Reconnaissance

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U.S. Geological Survey, 400 S. Clinton Street, Box 1230, Iowa City, Iowa 52244
U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 407, Denver, Colorado 80225-0046
U.S. Geological Survey, 4500 SW 40th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34474
U.S. Geological Survey, 4821 Quail Crest Place, Lawrence, Kansas 66049
U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 407, Denver, Colorado 80225-0046
U.S. Geological Survey, 3215 Marine Street, Boulder, Colorado 80303
U.S. Geological Survey, 810 Bear Tavern Road, West Trenton, New Jersey 08628
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2002, 36, 6, 1202–1211
Publication Date (Web):March 13, 2002
Copyright © Not subject to U.S. Copyright. Published 2002 American Chemical Society

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    To provide the first nationwide reconnaissance of the occurrence of pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants (OWCs) in water resources, the U.S. Geological Survey used five newly developed analytical methods to measure concentrations of 95 OWCs in water samples from a network of 139 streams across 30 states during 1999 and 2000. The selection of sampling sites was biased toward streams susceptible to contamination (i.e. downstream of intense urbanization and livestock production). OWCs were prevalent during this study, being found in 80% of the streams sampled. The compounds detected represent a wide range of residential, industrial, and agricultural origins and uses with 82 of the 95 OWCs being found during this study. The most frequently detected compounds were coprostanol (fecal steroid), cholesterol (plant and animal steroid), N,N-diethyltoluamide (insect repellant), caffeine (stimulant), triclosan (antimicrobial disinfectant), tri(2-chloroethyl)phosphate (fire retardant), and 4-nonylphenol (nonionic detergent metabolite). Measured concentrations for this study were generally low and rarely exceeded drinking-water guidelines, drinking-water health advisories, or aquatic-life criteria. Many compounds, however, do not have such guidelines established. The detection of multiple OWCs was common for this study, with a median of seven and as many as 38 OWCs being found in a given water sample. Little is known about the potential interactive effects (such as synergistic or antagonistic toxicity) that may occur from complex mixtures of OWCs in the environment. In addition, results of this study demonstrate the importance of obtaining data on metabolites to fully understand not only the fate and transport of OWCs in the hydrologic system but also their ultimate overall effect on human health and the environment.

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     Corresponding author phone:  (319)358-3614; fax:  (319)358-3606; e-mail:  [email protected].

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