Contaminants of Emerging Concern

Contaminants of emerging concern are chemicals and other substances that have no regulatory standard, have been recently discovered in natural streams (often because of improved detection methods), and may damage aquatic life and human health. They are pollutants not currently included in routine monitoring programs and may be candidates for future regulation.

    They include:
  • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as some flame retardants and other organic contaminants
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), include any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock. PPCPs comprise a diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances, including prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances, and cosmetics.
  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including synthetic estrogens and androgens, naturally occurring estrogens, and other chemicals that affect hormonal functions in aquatic organisms.
  • Nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes or nano-scale particulate titanium dioxide.

Bibliography of USGS reports on contaminants of emerging concern.

Endocrine disruption found in fish exposed to municipal wastewater effluent.

Kidd, Karen A., et al. 2007. Collapse of a fish population after exposure to a synthetic estrogen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (21): 8897-8901.

Pharmaceuticals in the environment: Statement of Robert M. Hirsch, USGS, April 15, 2008, before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality.

Environmental Protection Agency web page on PPCPs.

Source: Information compiled from EPA and USGS websites.