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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2012 Jul;31(7):1595-603. doi: 10.1002/etc.1860. Epub 2012 May 22.

Pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticide-associated toxicity in two coastal watersheds (California, USA).

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Department of Environmental Toxicology, University of California, Davis, and California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Pollution Studies Laboratory at Granite Canyon, Monterey, California, USA.


Portions of the Santa Maria River and Oso Flaco Creek watersheds in central California, USA, are listed as impaired under section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act and require development of total maximum daily load (TMDL) allocations. These listings are for general pesticide contamination, but are largely based on historic monitoring of sediment and fish tissue samples that showed contamination by organochlorine pesticides. Recent studies have shown that toxicity in these watersheds is caused by organophosphate pesticides (water and sediment) and pyrethroid pesticides (sediment). The present study was designed to provide information on the temporal and spatial variability of toxicity associated with these pesticides to better inform the TMDL process. Ten stations were sampled in four study areas, one with urban influences, and the remaining in agriculture production areas. Water toxicity was assessed with the water flea Ceriodaphnia dubia, and sediment toxicity was assessed with the amphipod Hyalella azteca. Stations in the lower Santa Maria River had the highest incidence of toxicity, followed by stations influenced by urban inputs. Toxicity identification evaluations and chemical analysis demonstrated that the majority of the observed water toxicity was attributed to organophosphate pesticides, particularly chlorpyrifos, and that sediment toxicity was caused by mixtures of pyrethroid pesticides. The results demonstrate that both agriculture and urban land uses are contributing toxic concentrations of these pesticides to adjacent watersheds, and regional water quality regulators are now using this information to develop management objectives.

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