Contaminants of Emerging Concern

The Problem

Mounting evidence shows accumulating chemicals in waterways are cause for concern.  As a result of everyday household use, trace amounts of chemicals from consumer products are accumulating in downstream water sources. Collectively referred to as “contaminants of emerging concern” (CECs), these chemicals have increased their notoriety due to the known and suspected risks they pose to human health and the environment.  Despite known risks, CECs continue to be widely prevalent in consumer products.

What are CECs?

Contaminants of emerging concern include a wide range of chemical compounds used in common household and personal care products such as lotions, soaps, insect repellents, and sunscreens.  They are of emerging concern because of associated risks they present to human health and the environment.

Many chemicals defined as CECs are known or suspected toxins, and some are endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the normal functioning of hormones in the body. CECs may also be linked to biological abnormalities and mutations in aquatic life.

Where does your water come from?

The water that runs through your tap goes through a long process before it gets to you.  Urban areas mostly receive their water from a surface water source, such as a lake or river. Further treatment for water is applied according to EPA regulations of what is considered safe to drink.  Once water is used, the portion that runs down the drain is then reintegrated into a downstream source after being processed through a wastewater treatment plant.  However, not all contaminants are removed in this process. CECs are not targeted for removal by filtration or other treatment processes, but continue on to other water sources.  As water moves from its origin (headwaters) through cities and downstream, each reiteration of this process works to concentrate those compounds not removed in either the drinking water or wastewater treatment process.  Although CECs can be removed by some modern facilities, not all treatment facilities are equipped to effectively remove CECs.  Traditional wastewater treatment does not effectively remove these CECs, allowing them to move into the environment even after water has been treated.  Therefore, the quickest way to solve this problem is to prevent the CEC pollution from happening!

Water sustains us!

It’s all the same water – what you use and send down the drain

becomes water for others downstream.

You and only you can make a difference!

Your chemical footprint – the personal care and household products and pharmaceuticals you use – contribute to water contaminants. Help IES educate the community on what we can do to reduce our chemical footprint

IES CFP Handbook now available here