Concentrations of Select Commonly Used Organic UV Filters in San Francisco Bay Wastewater Effluent. SFEI Contribution No. 1111. San Francisco Estuary Institute.2023.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation filters are chemicals designed to absorb or reflect harmful solar radiation, and are used in products as diverse as personal care products (e.g., sunscreens, lotions, and cosmetics) and industrial products (e.g., insecticides, plastics, and paints) to mitigate deleterious effects of sunlight and extend product life. Widespread use of UV filters has led to extensive detections in the environment, and have raised concerns about impacts to aquatic ecosystems. In particular, several organic UV filters that are commonly used in sunscreen have been identified as neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors. To help understand the presence of organic UV filters and their potential to pose risks in San Francisco Bay, three of the most commonly used organic UV filters used in sunscreen (avobenzone, octinoxate, oxybenzone) as well as select metabolites were analyzed in municipal wastewater effluent from the six largest publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) discharging into the Bay. Note that organic UV filters is a broad chemical class, and other constituents within this class were not included in this study.
Only two of the three organic UV filters analyzed were detected in effluent, avobenzone (detected in 70% of samples) and oxybenzone (83%), with median concentrations of 28 and 86 ng/L, and 90th percentile concentrations of 77 and 209 ng/L, respectively. Concentrations of avobenzone and oxybenzone varied widely across facilities, though there were no clear outlier values. The two POTWs utilizing advanced secondary treatment had the lowest concentrations of any facilities, which may indicate increased removal from these processes. Overall, these concentrations were higher than those reported in one other study of wastewater effluent in the US. An increasing body of literature will help to fully understand the occurrence and fate of organic UV filters in wastewater.
Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and ultraviolet filters in wastewater discharges to San Francisco Bay as drivers of ecotoxicity. Environmental Pollution 336 . SFEI Contribution No. 1153.2023.
Research in the United States evaluating ecotoxic risk to receiving waters posed by contaminants occurring in wastewater discharges typically has focused on measurements of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), with limited evaluations of UV filters and phenylpyrazole and neonicotinoid pesticides. In this study, concentrations of 5 representative pharmaceuticals, 11 pesticides or pesticide degradation products, and 5 ultraviolet filters were measured in 24 h composite samples of six wastewater discharges representing ∼70% of the total wastewater discharged to San Francisco Bay during the summer and fall of 2021. No significant difference was observed between concentrations measured on weekdays vs. weekends. A hydrodynamic model of San Francisco Bay was used to estimate annual average dilution factors associated with different subembayments. With and without considering dilution effects, Risk Quotients were calculated using the 90th percentile of measured concentrations in wastewater effluents and threshold concentrations associated with ecotoxicity. Risk Quotients were highest for the neonicotinoid pesticide, imidacloprid, and exceeded ecotoxicity thresholds in the lower South Bay by a factor of 2.4, even when considering dilution. Compared to commonly measured pharmaceuticals, Risk Quotients for imidacloprid were higher than those for carbamazepine, trimethoprim and diclofenac, and comparable to those for propranolol and metoprolol. Risk Quotients for the pesticide, fipronil, and the UV filter, oxybenzone, were higher than for carbamazepine. The results highlight the need to incorporate pesticides and UV filters with high Risk Quotients into studies in the United States evaluating ecotoxic risk associated with contaminants in municipal wastewater discharges.
Triclosan and Methyl Triclosan in Prey Fish in a Wastewater-influenced Estuary. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry . SFEI Contribution No. 1112.2023.
While the antimicrobial ingredient triclosan has been widely monitored in the environment, much less is known about the occurrence and toxicity of its major transformation product, methyl triclosan. An improved method was developed and validated to effectively extract and quantify both contaminants in fish tissue and was used to characterize concentrations in small prey fish in areas of San Francisco Bay where exposure to triclosan via municipal wastewater discharges was expected to be highest. Concentrations of triclosan (0.44–57 ng/g ww, median 1.9 ng/g ww) and methyl triclosan (1.1–200 ng/g ww, median 36 ng/g ww) in fish tissue decreased linearly with concentrations of nitrate in site water, used as indicators of wastewater influence. The total concentrations of triclosan and methyl triclosan measured in prey fish were below available toxicity thresholds for triclosan, but there are few ecotoxicological studies to evaluate impacts of methyl triclosan. Methyl triclosan represented up to 96% of the total concentrations observed. These results emphasize the importance of monitoring contaminant transformation products, which can be present at higher levels than the parent compound.
Bisphenols in San Francisco Bay: Wastewater, Stormwater, and Margin Sediment Monitoring. SFEI Contribution No. 1093. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2022.
Bisphenols are a class of synthetic, mobile, endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Bisphenol A (BPA), the most well-studied bisphenol, is produced and used in vast quantities worldwide—especially in polycarbonate plastics and as a polymer additive. Recently, some manufacturers have begun using alternative bisphenol compounds, such as bisphenol F (BPF) and bisphenol S (BPS). These uses of bisphenols have led to widespread bisphenol detections in the environment and wildlife. The present study examined wastewater effluent in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Francisco Bay sediment samples for 17 bisphenols. The effluent samples were compared to available stormwater runoff data to better understand bisphenol transport, fate, and potential risks to wildlife.
CECs in California’s Ambient Aquatic Ecosystems: Occurrence and Risk Screening of Key Classes. . ASC Contribution. SFEI Contribution No. 1066. Aquatic Science Center: Richmond, CA.2022.
A living tool for the continued exploration of microplastic toxicity. Microplastics and Nanoplastics 2 (13).2022.
Throughout the past decade, many studies have reported adverse effects in biota following microplastic exposure. Yet, the field is still emerging as the current understanding of microplastic toxicity is limited. At the same time, recent legislative mandates have required environmental regulators to devise strategies to mitigate microplastic pollution and develop health-based thresholds for the protection of human and ecosystem health. The current publication rate also presents a unique challenge as scientists, environmental managers, and other communities may find it difficult to keep up with microplastic research as it rapidly evolves. At present, there is no tool that compiles and synthesizes the data from these studies to allow for visualization, interpretation, or analysis. Here, we present the Toxicity of Microplastics Explorer (ToMEx), an open access database and open source accompanying R Shiny web application that enables users to upload, search, visualize, and analyze microplastic toxicity data. Though ToMEx was originally created to facilitate the development of health-based thresholds to support California legislations, maintaining the database by the greater scientific community will be invaluable to furthering research and informing policies globally. The database and web applications may be accessed at https://microplastics.sccwrp.org/.
Occurrence and risk assessment of organophosphate esters and bisphenols in San Francisco Bay, California, USA. Science of the Total Environment 813 . SFEI Contribution No. 982.2022.
Organophosphate esters (OPEs) and bisphenols are two classes of industrial chemicals that are ubiquitously detected in environmental matrices due to high global production and widespread use, particularly in the manufacture of plastic products. In 2017, water samples collected throughout the highly urbanized San Francisco Bay were analyzed for 22 OPEs and 16 bisphenols using liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-Q Trap-mass spectrometry. Fifteen of the 22 OPEs were detected, with highest median concentrations in the order TCPP (42 ng/L) > TPhP (9.5 ng/L) > TBOEP (7.6 ng/L) > TnBP (7.5 ng/L) > TEP (6.7 ng/L) > TDCIPP (6.2 ng/L). In contrast, only two of 16 bisphenols, BPA and BPS, were quantified, with concentrations ranging from <0.7–35 ng/L and <1–120 ng/L, respectively. BPA and a few OPEs (EHDPP and TEHP) were primarily present in the particulate phase, while BPS and all other observed OPEs were predominantly found in the dissolved phase. Pairwise correlation analysis revealed several strong, positive correlations among OPEs, and few weak, negative correlations between OPEs and BPA, suggesting differences between the two classes with respect to their sources, pathways, and/or fate in the environment. Concentrations of OPEs and bisphenols observed in this study were generally consistent with reported concentrations in other estuarine and marine settings globally. TDCIPP exceeded existing predicted no-effect concentrations (PNECs) at some sites, and six other compounds (TCrP, IDDPP, EHDPP, TPhP, TBOEP, and BPA) were observed at levels approaching individual compound PNECs (not considering mixture effects), indicating potential risks to Bay biota. These results emphasize the need to control releases of these contaminants in order to protect the ecosystem. Periodic monitoring can be used to maintain vigilance in the face of potential regrettable substitutions.
PFAS in San Francisco Bay Water. SFEI Contribution No. 1094. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2022.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a family of thousands of synthetic, fluorine-rich compounds commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” are known for their thermal stability, non-reactivity, and surfactant properties. These unique compounds have widespread uses across consumer, commercial, and industrial products, resulting in widespread occurrence in the environment and wildlife across the globe. This study analyzed ambient surface water in San Francisco Bay for 40 PFAS to discern the occurrence, fate, and potential risks to ecological and human health.
Eleven of 40 PFAS were detected in ambient surface water collected in 2021 from 22 sites in the Bay. Seven PFAS (PFPeA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, PFBS, PFHxS, and PFOS), were found in at least 50% of samples. PFHxA and PFOA were the most frequently detected analytes (detection frequencies of 86% and 77%, respectively). PFPeA and PFHxA were generally found at the highest concentrations across sites, with median and maximum concentrations of 1.6 and 4.8 ng/L and 1.5 and 5.7 ng/L, respectively. Pairwise Spearman's correlations revealed strong positive correlations (p <0.001; r > 0.77) among the seven PFAS detected in at least 50% of sites, suggesting significant similarities between their sources, pathways, and/or fate in the environment. PFBA, PFNA, PFDA, and 6:2 FTS were found at a limited number of sites in the Bay. 6:2 FTS was found at a single site at 14 ng/L, the highest concentration of any individual PFAS in the Bay. The sums of detected PFAS for all sites had median and maximum concentrations of 10 and 29 ng/L, respectively.
Research recommendations to better understand the potential health impacts of microplastics to humans and aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics and Nanoplastics 2 (18).2022.
To assess the potential risk of microplastic exposure to humans and aquatic ecosystems, reliable toxicity data is needed. This includes a more complete foundational understanding of microplastic toxicity and better characterization of the hazards they may present. To expand this understanding, an international group of experts was convened in 2020–2021 to identify critical thresholds at which microplastics found in drinking and ambient waters present a health risk to humans and aquatic organisms. However, their findings were limited by notable data gaps in the literature. Here, we identify those shortcomings and describe four categories of research recommendations needed to address them: 1) adequate particle characterization and selection for toxicity testing; 2) appropriate experimental study designs that allow for the derivation of dose-response curves; 3) establishment of adverse outcome pathways for microplastics; and 4) a clearer understanding of microplastic exposure, particularly for human health. By addressing these four data gaps, researchers will gain a better understanding of the key drivers of microplastic toxicity and the concentrations at which adverse effects may occur, allowing a better understanding of the potential risk that microplastics exposure might pose to human and aquatic ecosystems.
Risk-based management framework for microplastics in aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics and Nanoplastics 2 (17).2022.
Microplastic particles (MPs) are ubiquitous across a wide range of aquatic habitats but determining an appropriate level of risk management is hindered by a poor understanding of environmental risk. Here, we introduce a risk management framework for aquatic ecosystems that identifies four critical management thresholds, ranging from low regulatory concern to the highest level of concern where pollution control measures could be introduced to mitigate environmental emissions. The four thresholds were derived using a species sensitivity distribution (SSD) approach and the best available data from the peer-reviewed literature. This included a total of 290 data points extracted from 21 peer-reviewed microplastic toxicity studies meeting a minimal set of pre-defined quality criteria. The meta-analysis resulted in the development of critical thresholds for two effects mechanisms: food dilution with thresholds ranging from ~ 0.5 to 35 particles/L, and tissue translocation with thresholds ranging from ~ 60 to 4100 particles/L. This project was completed within an expert working group, which assigned high confidence to the management framework and associated analytical approach for developing thresholds, and very low to high confidence in the numerical thresholds. Consequently, several research recommendations are presented, which would strengthen confidence in quantifying threshold values for use in risk assessment and management. These recommendations include a need for high quality toxicity tests, and for an improved understanding of the mechanisms of action to better establish links to ecologically relevant adverse effects.
Contaminant Concentrations in Sport Fish from San Francisco Bay: 2019. SFEI Contribution No. 1036. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2021.
Framework for nontargeted investigation of contaminants released by wildfires into stormwater runoff: Case study in the northern San Francisco Bay area. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management . SFEI Contribution No. 1044.2021.
Wildfires can be extremely destructive to communities and ecosystems. However, the full scope of the ecological damage is often hard to assess, in part due to limited information on the types of chemicals introduced to affected landscapes and waterways. The objective of this study was to establish a sampling, analytical, and interpretive framework to effectively identify and monitor contaminants of emerging concern in environmental water samples impacted by wildfire runoff. A nontargeted analysis consisting of comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC × GC/TOF-MS) was conducted on stormwater samples from watersheds in the City of Santa Rosa and Sonoma and Napa Counties, USA, after the three most destructive fires during the October 2017 Northern California firestorm. Chemicals potentially related to wildfires were selected from the thousands of chromatographic features detected through a screening method that compared samples from fire-impacted sites versus unburned reference sites. This screening led to high confidence identifications of 76 potentially fire-related compounds. Authentic standards were available for 48 of these analytes, and 46 were confirmed by matching mass spectra and GC × GC retention times. Of these 46 compounds, 37 had known commercial and industrial uses as intermediates or ingredients in plastics, personal care products, pesticides, and as food additives. Nine compounds had no known uses or sources and may be oxidation products resulting from burning of natural or anthropogenic materials. Preliminary examination of potential toxicity associated with the 46 compounds, conducted via online databases and literature review, indicated limited data availability. Regional comparison suggested that more structural damage may yield a greater number of unique, potentially wildfire-related compounds. We recommend further study of post-wildfire runoff using the framework described here, which includes hypothesis-driven site selection and nontargeted analysis, to uncover potentially significant stormwater contaminants not routinely monitored after wildfires and inform risk assessment.
Microplastics and other anthropogenic particles are prevalent in mussels from San Francisco Bay, and show no correlation with PAHs. Environmental Pollution 271.2021.
Microplastics are an emerging contaminant of high environmental concern due to their widespread distribution and availability to aquatic organisms. Filter-feeding organisms like bivalves have been identified as particularly susceptible to microplastics, and because of this, it has been suggested bivalves could be useful bioindicators of microplastic pollution in ecosystems. We sampled resident mussels and clams from five sites within San Francisco Bay for microplastics and other anthropogenic microparticles. Cages of depurated mussels (denoted transplants) were also deployed at four sites in the Bay for 90 days to investigate temporal uptake of microplastics and microparticles. Because microplastics can sorb PAHs, and thus may act as a source of these chemicals upon ingestion, transplant mussels and resident clams were also analyzed for PAHs. We found anthropogenic microparticles in all samples at all sites, some of which were identified as microplastics. There was no statistical difference between the mean number of microparticles found in resident and transplant species. There were significant site-specific differences among microparticle abundances in the Bay, with the highest abundances observed in the South Bay. No correlation was found between the number of microparticles and the sum concentrations of PAHs, priority PAHs, or any individual PAH, suggesting the chemical concentrations observed reflect broader chemical trends in the Bay rather than direct exposure through microplastic ingestion. The pattern of spatial distribution of microparticles in transplanted mussels matched that of sediment samples from the Bay, suggesting bivalves could be a useful bioindicator of microplastic abundances in sediment, but not surface water.
Summary for Managers: Non-targeted Analysis of Stormwater Runoff following the 2017 Northern San Francisco Bay Area Wildfires. SFEI Contribution No. 1045. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2021.
Urban-wildland interfaces in the western US are increasingly threatened by the growing number and intensity of wildfires, potentially changing the type of contaminants released into the landscape as more urban structures are burned. In October 2017, the Tubbs, Nuns, and Atlas wildfires devastated communities in Northern California (Figure 1), burning over 8,500 buildings and 210,000 acres of land in the span of 24 days (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2017). Together, these wildfires were the most destructive and costliest fires in the history of California at that time (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection 2019).
Post-wildfire monitoring efforts in impacted watersheds typically focus on a few well-established water quality and chemistry concerns (McKee et al. 2018). Few studies go beyond these limited targeted analyses and attempt to identify the multitude of other fire-related compounds that are released from or form as the result of combustion of residential, commercial, and industrial structures in urban-wildland interfaces. Some of these unidentified compounds may be toxic to aquatic ecosystems or human health, and may pose risks to wildlife or in water bodies that act as drinking water supplies to nearby communities.
A Synthesis of Microplastic Sources and Pathways to Urban Runoff. SFEI Contribution No. 1049. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2021.
California Senate Bill 1263 (2018) tasks the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) with leading statewide efforts to address microplastic pollution, and requires the OPC to adopt and implement a Statewide Microplastics Strategy related to microplastic materials that pose an emerging concern for ocean health. Key questions remain about the sources and pathways of microplastics, particularly to urban runoff, to inform an effective statewide microplastics management strategy. The OPC funded this work to inform these microplastics efforts. The purpose of this project was to build conceptual models that synthesize and integrate our current understanding of microplastic sources and pathways to urban runoff in order to provide future research priorities that will inform how best to mitigate microplastic pollution. Specifically, we developed conceptual models for cigarette butts and associated cellulose acetate fibers (Section 2), fibers other than cellulose acetate (Section 3), single-use plastic foodware and related microplastics (Section 4), and tire particles (Section 5), which were prioritized based on findings from the recent urban stormwater monitoring of microplastics in the San Francisco Bay region. Conceptual models specific to each of these particle types are valuable tools to refine source identification and elucidate potential source-specific data gaps and management options.
Contaminants of Emerging Concern in San Francisco Bay: A Strategy for Future Investigations 2020 Update. SFEI Contribution No. 1007. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2020.
This 2020 CEC Strategy Update is a brief summary document that describes the addition of recently monitored CECs to the tiered risk-based framework. Reviews of findings relevant to San Francisco Bay are provided, as is a discussion of the role of environmental persistence in classifying CECs within the framework. The Strategy is a living document that guides RMP special studies on CECs, assuring continued focus on the issues of highest priority to protecting the health of the Bay. A key focus of the Strategy is a tiered risk-based framework that guides future monitoring proposals. The Strategy also features a multi-year plan indicating potential future research priorities.
Microparticles, Microplastics, and PAHs in Bivalves in San Francisco Bay. SFEI Contribution No. 976. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2020.
California mussels (Mytilus californianus and hybrid Mytilus galloprovincialis / Mytilus trossulus) and Asian clams (Corbicula fluminea) were collected at multiple sites in San Francisco Bay. Mussels from a reference area with minimal urban influence were also deployed in cages for 90 days at multiple sites within the Bay prior to collection.Mussels from the reference time zero site, Bodega Head, had some of the lowest microparticle levels found in this study, along with resident clams from the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers and mussels transplanted to Pinole Point. The highest concentrations of microparticles were in mussels transplanted to Redwood Creek and Coyote Creek. The results of this study and current literature indicate that bivalves may not be good status and trends indicators of microplastic concentrations in the Bay unless the interest is in human health exposure via contaminated bivalve consumption.
Recommended Best Practices for Collecting, Analyzing, and Reporting Microplastics in Environmental Media: Lessons Learned from Comprehensive Monitoring of San Francisco Bay. Journal of Hazardous Materials . SFEI Contribution No. 1023.2020.
Microplastics are ubiquitous and persistent contaminants in the ocean and a pervasive and preventable threat to the health of marine ecosystems. Microplastics come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and plastic types, each with unique physical and chemical properties and toxicological impacts. Understanding the magnitude of the microplastic problem and determining the highest priorities for mitigation require accurate measures of microplastic occurrence in the environment and identification of likely sources. The field of microplastic pollution is in its infancy, and there are not yet widely accepted standards for sample collection, laboratory analyses, quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC), or reporting of microplastics in environmental samples. Based on a comprehensive assessment of microplastics in San Francisco Bay water, sediment, fish, bivalves, stormwater, and wastewater effluent, we developed recommended best practices for collecting, analyzing, and reporting microplastics in environmental media. We recommend factors to consider in microplastic study design, particularly in regard to site selection and sampling methods. We also highlight the need for standard QA/QC practices such as collection of field and laboratory blanks, use of methods beyond microscopy to identify particle composition, and standardized reporting practices, including suggested vocabulary for particle classification.
RMP Update 2020. SFEI Contribution No. 1008.2020.
The overarching goal of the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (RMP) is to answer the highest priority scientific questions faced by managers of Bay water quality. The RMP is an innovative collaboration between the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, the regulated discharger community, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and many other scientists and interested parties. The purpose of this document is to provide a concise overview of recent RMP activities and findings, and a look ahead to significant products anticipated in the next two years. The report includes a description of the management context that guides the Program; a brief summary of some of the most noteworthy findings of this multifaceted Program; and a summary of progress to date and future plans for addressing priority water quality topics.
Microplastic Strategy Update. SFEI Contribution No. 951. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2019.
Based on the detection of microplastics in San Francisco Bay surface water and Bay Area wastewater effluent in 2015, the Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality in San Francisco Bay (RMP) convened a Microplastic Workgroup (MPWG) in 2016 to discuss the issue, identify management information needs and management questions (MQs), and prioritize studies to provide information to answer these management questions. The MPWG meets annually to review on-going microplastic projects and to conduct strategic long-term planning in response to new information in this rapidly evolving field.
In this nascent field with new findings published almost daily, the Strategy is designed to be a living document that is updated periodically. This Strategy Update includes a short summary of recent findings from the San Francisco Bay Microplastics Project - a major monitoring effort in the Bay - and an updated multi-year plan based on the newly acquired knowledge and current management needs.
Understanding Microplastic Levels, Pathways, and Transport in the San Francisco Bay Region. SFEI Contribution No. 950. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, CA.2019.
Microplastics (particles less than 5 mm) are ubiquitous and persistent pollutants in the ocean and a pervasive and preventable threat to the health of marine ecosystems. Microplastics come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and plastic types, each with unique physical and chemical properties and toxicological impacts. Understanding the magnitude of the microplastics problem and determining the highest priorities for mitigation require accurate measures of microplastic occurrence in the environment and identification of likely sources.
To develop critical baseline data and inform solutions, the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the 5 Gyres Institute have completed the first comprehensive regional study of microplastic pollution in a major estuary. This project supported multiple scientific components to develop improved knowledge about and characterization of microparticles and microplastics in San Francisco Bay and adjacent National Marine Sanctuaries, with the following objectives:
- Contribute to the development and standardization of sample collection and analysis methodology for microplastic transportation research.
- Determine a baseline for future monitoring of microplastics in San Francisco Bay surface water, sediment, and fish, and in ocean waters outside the Golden Gate.
- Characterize pathways by which microplastics enter the Bay, including urban stormwater and treated wastewater effluent.
- Investigate the contribution of Bay microplastics to the adjacent National Marine Sanctuaries through computer simulations.
- Communicate findings to regional stakeholders and the general public through meetings and educational materials.
- Facilitate evaluation of policy options for San Francisco Bay, with recommendations on source reduction.
This document presents the findings of this three-year project. A companion document, “San Francisco Bay Microplastics Project: Science-Supported Solutions and Policy Recommendations,” has been developed by 5 Gyres using the findings of this study (Box and Cummins, 2019).