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Emerging Contaminants Research and Resources

The following are Research Areas of Interest as they relate to PPCPs in the aquatic environment and are topic of interest for future research projects:

  • Source characterization
  • Occurrence, transport, and fate
  • Toxicology and risk assessment
  • Human  and ecological health
  • Identifying and ranking compounds of concern
  • Removal and/or treatment (wastewater and drinking water)
  • Pollution prevention

Aquatic Ecosystems

While information on the effects of long term low-dosage exposure of ECs and PPCPs on humans is still being collected, the effects on aquatic organisms and ecosystems has been observed, studied, and documented. A significant portion of these studies have focused on hormone disruption in aquatic organisms caused by exposure to trace organic compounds. An increase in the discovery of intersex organisms, i.e. fish having developed male and female reproductive organisms, has led scientists to question the environmental impact of low doses of hormones. The table below, taken from the Nov. 2008 AWWA Journal article “Emerging Compounds: A Concern for Water and Wastewater Utilities,” highlights some of the potential ecological effects of trace compounds found in wastewater effluent.

Class of Compound Typical Concentration in Effluent Potential Ecological or Human Health Effects Examples
Pharmaceuticals Up to 1 µg/L Endocrine disrupting Antibiotics, painkillers, caffeine, birth-control pill, antiepileptics
Personal care products Up to 1 µg/L Bioaccumulative, endocrine disrupting Soaps, fragrances, triclosan
Detergent metabolites Up to 180 µg/L Bioaccumulative, endocrine disrupting Ocylphenol, nonylphenol
Plasticizers Up to 10 µg/L Weakly endocrine disrupting Phthalate esters, bisphenol A
Brominated flame retardants Up to 30 µg/L Bioaccumulative, suspended endocrine disruptors Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
Disinfection by-products Up to 1 µg/L Carcinogenic N-nitrosodimethylamine

 

Research on pharmaceuticals and personal care products explores interactions between chemicals and the environment, the impact of wastewater and drinking water treatment processes on PPCPs, exposure impacts on aquatic biota, landfill leachate concentrations of PPCPs, and much more. National studies of particular interest, or national studies that have taken data from a New England/New York site, are also listed. This list will be maintained and updated to help promote regional research coordination.

Current Research and Databases

Ongoing projects

Environmental Protection Agency PPCP Research

Environmental Protection Agency Effluent Limitation Guidelines

Maine Department of Environmental Protection Surface Water Ambient Toxics Monitoring Program (SWAT)

Databases

Environmental Protection Agency Relevant PPCP Literature

NOAA Pharmaceuticals in the Environment, Information for Assessing Risk

Environmental Protection Agency ECOTOX

Clearinghouses of Studies/Reports

EPA Fish Tissue Study

EPA National Water-Quality Assessment Program, Source Water-Quality Assessment

NEIWPCC Sponsored Conferences

NEIWPCC’s 2011 Northeast Water Science Forum: Science to Inform Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Product Management, a two-day intensive technical conference, was held April 28 – 29, 2011 in Portland, Maine.

Resources

NEIWPCC Member State Agencies

State Agencies

Federal Agencies

Regional Groups

Organizations

For more information on take-back and mail-in programs:

Go-to-Guide for Safe Drug Take-Back (PSI)

  • An information source for all parties interested in learning about drug take-back and disposal issues, created in an effort to centralize information and resources on drug take-back issues.

Safe Medicine Disposal for ME Program

  • A state-run drug return mail-in program that provides Maine’s older adults with a safe option for disposal of unused and expired medicine

Northeast Recycling Council (NERC)

  • Information on unwanted medications collections in the Northeast

NYS DEC’s “Proper Disposal of Household Prescriptions and Over-the-counter Drugs” website

California’s “No Drugs Down The Drain” campaign

The Texas Section AWWA’s “Don’t Flush Drugs” website

FDA’s website