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From toxic dust and algae to ill winds from Africa
Date:11/20/2009

Toxic dust: Toxins in coal-tar-based sealcoats in parking lots may be the culprit in contaminated house dust, according to a USGS study. PAHs or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are large molecules found in oil, coal and tar deposits, and can have toxic effects. It's long been known that PAHs are often found in house dust; however, the specific sources of these PAHs are largely undetermined. Researchers found that dust from indoor areas near parking lots with coal-tar-based sealcoat had substantially elevated concentrations of PAHs. This study, PAHs in house dust and relation to coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat, will be presented on Nov. 20 at 10:20 a.m. in the Belle Chasse Room. For more information, contact Barbara Mahler at bjmahler@usgs.gov or at 512-927-3566.

Eensy-weensy spiders play large role as sentinels of contaminants: Spiders that live near water may be an effective warning system for contaminants in aquatic ecosystems, according to a new USGS and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study. Scientists examined PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) levels in shoreline-living spiders at Lake Hartwell, a Superfund site in South Carolina, and used this information to map contaminant concentrations in lake sediment. Future monitoring studies will use the spiders as indicators of ecosystem recovery from PCB contamination. Researchers also made risk maps for a spider-eating bird, the Carolina wren, which could be exposed to PCBs through eating spiders. These spiders rely heavily on adult aquatic insects for food and play a key ecological role in the transfer of contaminants between water and land ecosystems. In spite of this, they are underused as a sentinel species at contaminated sediment sites. This study, using riparian spiders as sentinels of PCB export and risk, will be presented on Nov. 21 at 3:50 p.m. in the Versailles Room. To learn more, contact David Walters at

Contact: Kara Capelli
kcapelli@usgs.gov
703-648-5086
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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