Emerging contaminants are an increasing concern for scientists, water utilities and regulators. These chemicals are found in drinking water globally, raising questions about the long-term consequences of exposure to them.
Such chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides and endocrine disrupting compounds, have been present in drinking water ever since they became part of industrial processes, but until recently they have not been detected because previous generations of technology were unable to pick them up, according to Scientific American. Because of that, there is no regulation regarding emerging contaminants and most water and wastewater treatment plants have no equipment to remove them from water. Moreover, there is not enough information available to the public regarding these chemicals, as public reports by water utilities rarely list chemicals that are not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency has only recently started to address the issue. At present, it is seeking scientific evidence that could help regulators and the industry understand more about emerging chemicals and how they affect the environment and people, as well as raise awareness among the public on ways to prevent chemicals from entering water systems. Scientists agree that currently available data is insufficient to draw conclusions or to determine safe levels of exposure and more research will be necessary.