One of the most frequently detected organic chemicals in a nationwide study concerning the effects of wastewater on stream water quality conducted in the year 2000 was the widely used insect repellant N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET). It was detected at levels of 0.02 μg/L or greater in 73% of the stream sites sampled, with the selection of sampling sites being biased toward streams thought to be subject to wastewater contamination (i.e., downstream from intense urbanization and livestock production). Although DEET frequently was detected at all sites, the median concentration was low (0.05 μg/L). The highest concentrations of DEET were found in streams from the urban areas (maximum concentration, 1.1 μg/L). The results of the present study suggest that the movement of DEET to streams through wastewater-treatment systems is an important mechanism that might lead to the exposure of aquatic organisms to this chemical.
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