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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Mar 1;44(5):1833-40. doi: 10.1021/es9035573.

Urban and agricultural sources of pyrethroid insecticides to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta of California.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, 3060 Valley Life Sciences Bldg., Berkeley, California 94720-3140, USA. dweston@berkeley.edu


While studies have documented the presence of pyrethroid insecticides at acutely toxic concentrations in sediments, little quantitative data on sources exist. Urban runoff, municipal wastewater treatment plants and agricultural drains in California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta were sampled to understand their importance as contributors of these pesticides to surface waters. Nearly all residential runoff samples were toxic to the amphipod, Hyalella azteca, and contained pyrethroids at concentrations exceeding acutely toxic thresholds, in many cases by 10-fold. Toxicity identification evaluation data were consistent with pyrethroids, particularly bifenthrin and cyfluthrin, as the cause of toxicity. Pyrethroids passed through secondary treatment systems at municipal wastewater treatment facilities and were commonly found in the final effluent, usually near H. azteca 96-h EC(50) thresholds. Agricultural discharges in the study area only occasionally contained pyrethroids and were also occasional sources of toxicity related to the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos. Discharge of the pyrethroid bifenthrin via urban stormwater runoff was sufficient to cause water column toxicity in two urban creeks, over at least a 30 km reach of the American River, and at one site in the San Joaquin River, though not in the Sacramento River.

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