Emerging Contaminants In the Environment
"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
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.
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
- Endocrine disrupting alkylphenolic chemicals and other contaminants in wastewater treatment plant effluents, urban streams, and fish in the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River regions: Barber, L.B., Loyo-Rosales, J.E., Rice, C.P., Minarik, T.A., and Oskouie, A.K., 2015, Science of the Total Environment, v. 517, p. 195-206, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.02.035.
- Identifying non-point sources of endocrine active compounds and their biological impacts in freshwater lakes: Baker, B.H., Martinovic-Weigelt, D., Ferrey, M., Barber, L.B., Writer, J.H., Rosenberry, D.O., Kiesling, R.L., Lundy, J.R., and Schoenfuss, H.L., 2014, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, v. 67, no. 3, p. 374-388, doi:10.1007/s00244-014-0052-4.
- Riverbank filtration potential of pharmaceuticals in a wastewater-impacted stream: Bradley, P.M., Barber, L.B., Duris, J.W., Foreman, W.T., Furlong, E.T., Hubbard, L.E., Hutchinson, K.J., Keefe, S.H., and Kolpin, D.W., 2014, Environmental Pollution, v. 193, p. 173-180, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2014.06.028.
- Transgenic zebrafish reveal tissue-specific differences in estrogen signaling in response to environmental water samples: Gorelick, D.A., Iwanowicz, L.R., Hung, A.L., Blazer, V.S., and Halpern, M.E., 2014, Environmental Health Perspectives, v. 122, no. 4, p. 356-362, doi:10.1289/ehp.1307329.
- Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) leukocytes express estrogen receptor isoforms ERα and ERβ2 and are functionally modulated by estrogens: Iwanowicz, L.R., Stafford, J.L., Patiño, R., Bengten, E., Miller, N.W., and Blazer, V.S., 2014, Fish and Shellfish Immunology, v. 40, no. 1, p. 109-119, doi:10.1016/j.fsi.2014.06.021.
- Assessment of endocrine-disrupting chemicals attenuation in a coastal Plain stream prior to wastewater treatment plant closure: Bradley, P.M., and Journey, C.A., 2014, Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 50, no. 2, p. 388-400, doi:10.1111/jawr.12165.
- Reproductive health indicators of fishes from Pennsylvania watersheds--Association with chemicals of emerging concern: Blazer, V.S., Iwanowicz, D.D., Walsh, H.L., Sperry, A.J., Iwanowicz, L.R., Alvarez, D.A., Brightbill, R.A., Smith, G., Foreman, W.T., and Manning, R., 2014, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 186, no. 10, p. 6471-6491, doi:10.1007/s10661-014-3868-5.
- Contaminants of emerging concern in fresh leachate from landfills in the conterminous United States: Masoner, J.R., Kolpin, D.W., Furlong, E.T., Cozzarelli, I.M., Gray, J.L., and Schwab, E.A., 2014, Environmental Science--Processes and Impacts, v. 16, no. 10, p. 2335-2354, doi:10.1039/C4EM00124A.
Select Information on Emerging Contaminant Research Outside the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
- 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)
- Antibiotic/Antimicrobial 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