Emerging environmental contaminants include a wide variety of chemicals that have been largely outside of the scope of environmental regulation. Also referred to as PPCPs (pharmaceuticals and personal care products), these contaminants are derived from any product consumed by humans or animals for health or cosmetic reasons, and thus include prescription and non-prescription human drugs, veterinary medicines, and a wide variety of chemicals found in everyday products such as shampoo, soap and sunscreen. Emerging environmental contaminants (EECs) have stimulated a great deal of interest because their inputs to the environment are continuous and their effects are largely unknown. The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the potential impacts of this issue to wastewater providers. The discussion will include the various types and occurrence of EECs and the relationship to endocrine disrupting effects, other possible environmental and human effects, potential treatment technologies and removal success, and current regulation and policy.
Emerging Environmental Contaminants, Pharmaceuticals, Endocrine Disruptors, Wastewater
Environmental chemists are using increasingly sophisticated analytical techniques to investigate the presence of previously undetected contaminants in surface waters. These “emerging environmental contaminants” (EECs) include a diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances that have heretofore been largely outside the scope of monitoring and regulation in ambient waters. These chemicals are not found on the priority pollutant list. They are, however, constantly being discharged into the aquatic environment from point and non-point sources, at amounts believed to rival those of fertilizers and agricultural chemicals. Recently, these emerging environmental contaminants (EECs) have received significant coverage in scientific journals as well as the popular press, along with speculation about their possible effects upon human health and ecological processes.
The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the potential impacts of the EEC issue to wastewater treatment providers with respect to the occurrence of EECs, their potential environmental and human health effects, removal technologies, and current regulation and policy. The impacts of the emerging environmental contaminant issue will be realized by many wastewater treatment facilities within the next decade. Utilities should be prepared to address citizens’ concerns about this issue by understanding the research that has been conducted and keeping abreast of new developments in the scientific and regulatory arenas.