USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center Project: Environmental Effects of Dust Suppressant Chemicals on Roadside Plant and Animal Communities

Cooperators with USGS: US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service

Statement of Problem
: More than 1.5 million miles of roads in the U.S. are unpaved. Although dust from unpaved roads may seem like a simple nuisance, it creates health hazards for those living near roads and safety hazards for drivers. Dust also increases equipment wear and degrades road surfaces. As a result, more than 150 products are commercially available for dust control, and tens of millions of gallons of these products are applied every year in the U.S. However, few studies have investigated potential environmental impacts of dust suppressant application. To address this knowledge gap, the USGS-Columbia Environmental Research Center has partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate the environmental safety of dust suppressant products in both laboratory and field tests. 

Objectives: Phases One and Two of the project used laboratory toxicity tests to identify several products with low aquatic toxicity. Phase Three is evaluating the performance and environmental safety of selected products when applied under real-world conditions in field tests. This improved data will help ensure that federal agencies and other road managers can make informed decisions about effective, environmentally safe dust control. Additional tests are evaluating the toxicity of bio-based dust suppressants on the USDA BioPreferred list.

For latest update:
Update on Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge Field Test--presented at the Transportation Research Board 2016 Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, January 10-14, 2016

For more project information and 2014 field test update:

USGS field tests at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, TX, are featured in the March/April issue of Refuge Update:

BioPreferred Road Products Study Data Tables and Metadata

In The News

  • Lawsuit from Africa a Puzzler for City Firm: Dust-Control Product Rejected
    Tuesday, January 6, 2015
  • Hagerman Refuge, USGS Lead the Way on Dust Suppression
    Saturday, March 1, 2014
  • Hagerman is Ground Zero for National Study to Control Dust
    Thursday, July 12, 2012
    "We wanted to help Hagerman solve a problem here at the refuge and to do that in an environmentally safe way," U.S. Geological Survey biologist Bethany Williams said. Scientists are at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge this week, testing products that control dust on gravel roads. Their challenge: the products have to be environmentally safe. "Right now, refuges are under a near moratorium on dust control because we don't know about some of those environmental effects," Williams said. Read More
  • Hagerman Closes Wildlife Drive for Week
    Monday, July 9, 2012
    "We are doing applications all this week and then following up for a full year afterward looking at how well the products perform but then also make sure they don't have any negative effects on roadside vegetation, wildlife, or water quality," says Williams.
    YouTube: Read More
  • Sustainable Dust Control is Quickly Becoming a Reality
    Thursday, March 22, 2012
    ...dust tossed up from roads, industrial sites, farms, and practically any other site perturbed by humans does have its impact; it can travel vast distances over extended periods of time. And it can get into, and practically ruin, pretty much anything. Read More
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