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Chemical Contaminants

NCCOS monitors coastal contaminants and their effects on the local marine environment, to identify problem areas that need management attention. Photo by Ian Hartwell of NCCOS.

NCCOS identifies coastal areas that are contaminated. We identify the pollutants, find their sources, and predict their impacts. Thousands of chemicals are created by industry and introduced into the marketplace each year. Many of these chemicals end up in the marine environment. We determine which chemicals are toxic to marine life or building-up in coastal areas and animals.

Our data can be used to assess the risks of these chemicals to coastal animals and to human consumers of seafood. We work with communities to provide information and tools to reduce pollution and improve coastal health.

We support NOAA's response to disasters such as hurricanes and chemical spills, measuring and tracking the spread of oil, disease-causing bacteria, and other contaminants. The freely-available data from our long-term monitoring programs (National Status and Trends) are used to describe and detect changes in coastal environmental quality.

Communities use our assessments and data to identify pollution hot spots, target pollution control efforts, and assess effectiveness of pollution control programs and policies.

Bioeffects Program

Since 1991, The Bioeffects Program has undertaken a series of regional environmental assessments designed to describe the magnitude and extent of toxic contaminant impacts in our nation's estuarine and coastal areas. Through field studies, we examine the distribution and concentration of over 150 chemical contaminants in sediments, measure sediment toxicity, and assess the condition of bottom-dwelling biological communities. We then integrate this information to develop a comprehensive assessment of the health of the marine habitat.
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Using Mussels to Monitor Contaminants in the Ocean