Chemicals or Materials of Concern for Public and Environmental Health

Microplastics and perflourinated compounds are two examples of materials detected recently in the environment at concentrations that cause concern.

Such contaminants of emerging concern, also known as emerging contaminants, are new. Consequently they are not commonly monitored or regulated. The related science, standards, and guidance may be thin.

magnified microfiber found in the esophagus of a cormorant
Plastic microfibers from the esophagus of a double-crested cormorant. Rachel Ricotta took this photo through a microscope while assisting with a study of microplastics, an emerging containment, in the Great Lakes.

The occurrence, fate, and transport of emerging contaminants is a priority issue for NEIWPCC. The ecological and human health implications of these contaminants for wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities are of key interest.

Media attention and advances in detection techniques have engendered a growing awareness of emerging contaminants. This attention also focuses on the need for action and leadership at the local, state, and regional levels.

One such emerging pollutant is microscopic plastic fibers that enter the environment when polyester fleece is laundered. Ongoing research focuses on the environmental impacts of these compounds. This work includes the development of better detection and analytical methodologies, source characterization, and human health and ecological impacts.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are another emerging contaminant that has drawn considerable attention.

The Emerging Contaminants Workgroup (formerly the Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Workgroup) brings together New England and New York state agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Geological Survey, and academic institutions from around the region to address the issue of emerging contaminants in our waterways.