Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

1.13 – Emerging contaminants

January 1, 2014

Since the Industrial Revolution, a diversity of large-scale chemical innovations has impacted aquatic systems in urban environments. Beginning in the 1990s, there has been a growing scientific interest and public awareness of the effects of the chemicals used in domestic, commercial, industrial, and agricultural applications, referred to in this article as ‘emerging contaminants’ (ECs), on ecosystem and human health. The growing global population and its increasing demands on water supplies in conjunction with climate-induced changes in hydrologic regimes place stress on freshwater resources, resulting in a greater reliance on reuse of reclaimed municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents to meet human and environmental needs. WWTP effluents are a major source of ECs, and it is important to have an understanding of the chemical composition of the reclaimed water, because many ECs are biologically active and the effects of chronic exposure to low concentration complex mixtures are unknown. Several classes of ECs that have been shown to be widespread in the aquatic environment are discussed in this chapter, including surfactants, complexing agents, fragrances, antimicrobials, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, natural and synthetic estrogens, and disinfection byproducts. All of these compounds are biologically active via a variety of modes of action, and can occur in aquatic systems at concentrations ranging from <0.001 to >100 μg l−1.

Publication Year 2014
Title 1.13 – Emerging contaminants
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-382182-9.00015-3
Authors Larry B. Barber
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70189677
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Central Branch