Emerging Contaminants In the Environment
Research is documenting with increasing frequency that many chemical and microbial constituents that
have not historically been considered as contaminants are present in the environment on a global
scale. These "emerging contaminants" are commonly derived from municipal, agricultural,
and industrial wastewater sources and pathways. These newly recognized contaminants represent a
shift in traditional thinking as many are produced industrially yet are dispersed to the environment
from domestic, commercial, and industrial uses.
"Emerging contaminants" can be broadly defined as
any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical or any microorganism that is
not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the
environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and(or) human
health effects. In some cases, release of emerging chemical or microbial
contaminants to the environment has likely occurred for a long time, but may
not have been recognized until new detection methods were
developed. In other cases, synthesis of new chemicals or changes in use and
disposal of existing chemicals can create new sources of emerging
The major goal of the Emerging Contaminants Project is to
provide information on these compounds for evaluation of their potential threat to environmental and
human health. To accomplish this goal, the
research activities of this
project are to: (1) develop analytical methods to measure chemicals and
microorganisms or their genes in a variety of matrices (e.g. water, sediment, waste) down to trace
levels, (2) determine the environmental occurrence of these potential contaminants,
(3) characterize the myriad of sources and source pathways that determine
contaminant release to the environment, (4) define and quantify processes that determine their
transport and fate through the environment, and (5) identify potential
ecologic effects from exposure to these chemicals or microorganisms. Project
research on emerging contaminants is being conducted within these five areas. The following links
provide more detailed information.
- Analytical Methods Development
- Environmental Occurrence
- Sources and Source Pathways
- Transport and Fate
- Ecological Effects
Emerging Contaminant Headlines
Meetings and Conferences
- Analysis of pharmaceutical and other wastewater compounds in filtered and unfiltered water samples by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry: Zaugg, S.D., Phillips, P.J., and Smith, S.G., U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report (IN PRESS).
- The Mussel Watch California pilot study on contaminants of emerging concern (CECs)--Synthesis and next steps: Maruya, K.A., Dodder, N.G., Weisberg, S.B., Gregorio, D., Bishop, J.S., Klosterhaus, S., Alvarez, D.A., Furlong, E.T., Bricker, S., Kimbrough, K.L., and Lauenstein, G.G., Marine Pollution Bulletin, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.04.023 (IN PRESS).
- Occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern along the California coast (2009-10) using passive sampling devices: Alvarez, D.A., Maruya, K.A., Dodder, N.G., Lao, W., Furlong, E.T., and Smalling, K.L., Marine Pollution Bulletin, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.04.022 (IN PRESS).
- Dissipation of contaminants of emerging concern in biosolids applied to nonirrigated Farmland in eastern Colorado: Yager, T.J.B., Furlong, E.T., Kolpin, D.W., Kinney, C.A., Zaugg, S.D., and Burkhardt, M.R., 2014, JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 50, no. 2, p. 343-357, doi:10.1111/jawr.12163.
- Bioassay of estrogenicity and chemical analyses of estrogens in streams across the United States associated with livestock operations: Alvarez, D.A., Shappell, N.W., Billey, L.O., Bermudez, D.S., Wilson, V.S., Kolpin, D.W., Perkins, S.D., Evans, N., Foreman, W.T., Gray, J.L., Shipitalo, M.J., and Meyer, M.T., 2013, Water Research, v. 47, no. 10, p. 3347-3363, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2013.03.028.
- Featured collection introduction--Contaminants of emerging concern II: Battaglin, W.A., and Kolok, A., 2014, JAWRA Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 50, no. 2, p. 261-265, doi:10.1111/jawr.12176.
- Presence of the Corexit component dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate in Gulf of Mexico waters after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Gray, J.L., Kanagy, L.K., Furlong, E.T., Kanagy, C.J., McCoy, J.W., Mason, A., and Lauenstein, G., 2014, Chemosphere, v. 95, p. 124-130, doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.08.049.
Select Information on Emerging Contaminant Research Outside the Toxic Substances Hydrology
- Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs),
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Pharmaceuticals and
Personal Care Products (PPCPs) as Environmental Pollutants, National Exposure Research Laboratory,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Pharmaceuticals in the Environment, Information for
Assessing Risk (PEIAR) Project, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Resistance, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Materials of Emerging Regulatory Interest Team
(MERIT), Emerging Contaminants Directorate, Department of Defense (The official DoD source
for emerging contaminants information)
- EU-Project Poseidon, Assessment of
Technologies for the Removal of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in Sewage and
Drinking Water Facilities to Improve the Indirect Potable Water Reuse, European Union