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Is there an urban pesticide signature? Urban streams in five U.S. regions share common dissolved-phase pesticides but differ in predicted aquatic toxicity

Lisa H. Nowell, Patrick W. Moran, Laura M. Bexfield, Barbara J. Mahler, Peter C. Van Metre, Paul M. Bradley, Travis S. Schmidt, Daniel T. Button, Sharon L. Qi | June 15th, 2021

Pesticides occur in urban streams globally, but the relation of occurrence to urbanization can be obscured by regional differences. In studies of five regions of the United States, we investigated the effect of region and urbanization on the occurrence and potential toxicity of dissolved pesticide mixtures. We analyzed 225 pesticide compounds in weekly discrete water samples collected during 6–12 weeks from 271 wadable streams; development in these basins ranged from undeveloped to highly urbanized. Sixteen pesticides were consistently detected in 16 urban centers across the five regions—we propose that these pesticides comprise a suite of urban signature pesticides (USP) that are all common in small U.S. urban streams. These USPs accounted for the majority of summed maximum pesticide concentrations at urban sites within each urban center. USP concentrations, mixture complexity, and potential toxicity increased with the degree of urbanization in the basin. Basin urbanization explained the most variability in multivariate distance-based models of pesticide profiles, with region always secondary in importance. The USPs accounted for 83% of pesticides in the 20 most frequently occurring 2-compound unique mixtures at urban sites, with carbendazim+prometon the most common. Although USPs were consistently detected in all regions, detection frequencies and concentrations varied by region, conferring differences in potential aquatic toxicity. Potential toxicity was highest for invertebrates (benchmarks exceeded in 51% of urban streams), due most often to the neonicotinoid insecticideimidacloprid and secondarily to organophosphate insecticides and fipronil. Benchmarks were rarely exceeded in urban streams for plants (at 3% of sites) or fish (<1%). We propose that the USPs identified here would make logical core (nonexclusive) constituents for monitoring dissolved pesticides in U.S. urban streams, and that unique mixtures containing imidacloprid, fipronil, and carbendazim are priority candidates for mixtures toxicity testing.


pesticides, streams, water quality

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