Read the full article by Doug Halter (Waste and Water Digest)

“The term ‘contaminant of emerging concern’ (CEC) has been used to identify chemicals and other substances that are currently unregulated and are usually not included in routine monitoring programs under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act or Clean Water Act. Some such as PFOA and PFAS are current candidates for regulation in the United States.

CECs have been detected in natural water bodies and have a detrimental effect on fish and other aquatic species. Some CECs bioaccumulate up the food web, putting even non-aquatic species at risk when they eat contaminated fish. Eventually, CECs end up in humans. Many have shown to be toxic and are causing widespread public health concerns. CECs include several classes of chemicals including but not limited to the following:

  • Persistent Organic Pollutants such as:
    • Polychlorinated Biphenyls, Dioxins, and Organochlorine & Organophosphorus Pesticides
    • 1,4-Dioxane
    • 2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene (TNT)
    • Dinitrotoluene (DNT)
    • Hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX)
    • N-Nitroso-dimethylamine (NDMA)
    • Perchlorate
    • Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid (PFOS), Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and other Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”
    • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs)
    • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs);
  • Nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes or nano-scale particulate titanium dioxide, of which little is known about either their environmental fate or effects.
  • Microplastics
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), including a wide suite of human prescribed drugs, over-the-counter medications, bactericides, sunscreens, and perfumes;
  • Veterinary medicines such as antimicrobials, antibiotics, antifungals, growth promoters and hormones; and
  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including synthetic estrogens and androgens, naturally occurring estrogens as well as many others capable of modulating normal hormonal functions and steroidal synthesis in aquatic organisms and in some cases humans.

Why are we Concerned?

The use and occurrence of CECs are varied. People frequently use and dispose of chemical-based products. The chemicals are disposed as trash, which is buried in landfills or incompletely combusted in waste incinerations. Humans excrete PPCPs and EDCs in urine which is flushed into wastewater systems. Industries process and use chemicals and release them via air emissions, water discharges, and land disposal. Eventually, the CECs end up in the environment and have been detected in drinking water supplies and the food chain.

Non-biodegradable CECs such as PFAS are released directly into the environment after passing through conventional wastewater treatment processes, which are not designed to address these pollutants. Wastewater solids from secondary treatment processes in some cases land-applied as biosolids, so the CECs leach into groundwater or stormwater run-off and eventually wind up in nearby bodies of water.”…