Contaminants of Emerging Concern

What Are They?

Sometimes chemicals that had not previously been detected (or were previously found in far lesser concentrations) are discovered in the water supply. These chemicals are known as “contaminants of emerging concern” or simply "emerging contaminants." Emerging contaminants are important because the risk they pose to human health and the environment is not yet fully understood.

Pharmaceuticals, personal care products (PCPs) and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) are among the prime examples of emerging contaminants. Up to 90% of oral drugs pass through the human body and end up in the water supply. Personal care products (soaps, cosmetics, fragrances, etc.) also find their way into our water. Endocrine disruptors are substances that may interfere with the function of hormones in the body. Trace amounts of these contaminants are being discovered in water throughout the country.  The U.S. EPA is working to improve its understanding of several emerging contaminants, including perchlorate, pharmaceuticals, PCPs and EDCs.

Should I be concerned?

With advances in testing and health research, experts are learning of new potential dangers in our drinking water. In many cases, the possible harms are not yet fully known.

How do I know if they're in my water?

Home testing for many newly discovered threats does not yet exist. In some cases, state laboratories can test for these contaminants or local professionals can provide water treatment to address them. Public health advocacy agencies and government bodies also conduct surveys to find some of these contaminants.

How can I prevent them?

To feel confident you are protecting yourself against contaminants, you should seek devices that have been rigorously tested and certified to independent standards. Experts in testing are constantly working to develop new standards to meet emerging threats. To find options,explore WQA's directory of certified products or find a local professional who will take you through the steps to treat your water.