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Sentinels of Health Threats from Drinking Water

"You are what you drink!"

Contamination of drinking water by chemical pollutants and harmful microbes represents a significant threat to human health. A number of animal species, both aquatic and terrestrial, are sentinels of contaminated drinking water. Chemical build-up in mussels from the Upper Midwest, reproductive problems in Florida alligators, and tumors in beluga whales are warning signs of polluted waters.

USGS scientists are studying the presence of abnormal smallmouth bass in Maryland's Potomac River. These fish, termed "intersex," are neither male nor female. Intersex fish arise when natural development is disrupted by chemicals that mimic the functions of fish fertility hormones.

Not only is the sustainability of native fish populations threatened by such chemical pollutants, these abnormal intersex fish alert public health officials to potential threats to human health. Many of our rivers and harbors are freshwater sources for metropolitan drinking water. Monitoring such systems can help us better understand the risks we incur when the water is polluted.


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Topics:
Air, Dust, and Soil contaminants and Pathogens
Drinking Water Contaminants
Consumption of Bioaccumulative Contaminants
Vector Borne and Zoonotic (animal to human) Disease
Contact With Recreational Waters
Animal Sentinels of Human Health

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Page Last Modified: 15-Jun-2006@08:37