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Water: Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Contaminants of Emerging Concern

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Chemicals are being discovered in water that previously had not been detected or are being detected at levels that may be significantly different than expected.  These are often generally referred to as “contaminants of emerging concern” (CECs) because the risk to human health and the environment associated with their presence, frequency of occurrence, or source may not be known.  EPA is working to improve its understanding of a number of CECs, particularly pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and perfluorinated compounds among others.

In the past decade, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) have emerged as contaminants of concern because they are widely distributed and persistent in the environment. Both types of chemicals accumulate in human tissue or blood, and are associated with health effects including endocrine disruption.

Literature Review of Contaminants in Livestock and Poultry Manure and Implications for Water Quality (PDF) (137 pp, 1.5MB) (July 2013) - This report is part of EPA's ongoing efforts to better understand the environmental occurrence and potential effects related to contaminants of emerging concern. The report summarizes technical information on pathogens and contaminants of emerging concern such as antimicrobials and hormones that may affect water quality. The report makes no policy implications or recommendations for the addition of contaminants to any list of contaminants that may require regulation (such as the drinking water Contaminant Candidate List). It does identify information gaps that may help define research needs for EPA and its federal, state and local partners to better understand these issues.

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