EU Science Hub

Emerging pollutants in the environment: a challenge for water resource management

More than 700 emerging pollutants (Eps) categorized into 20 classes are present alone in the European aquatic environment. These are chemicals or microorganisms that are not commonly monitored but have the potential to enter the environment and cause adverse ecological/ human health effects. Occurrence of EPs can result from point or diffuse pollution. In light of their potential impact action is urgently required. Therefore, we present a concept that shows the current state of art and challenges for monitoring programs and risk assessment tools with respect to emerging pollutants as a base for sustainable water resource management. Actually, methods for sampling and analysis are not harmonized and are typically dedicated to certain limited EP classes and for a number of known highly hazardous EPs detection limits are inadequate to allow proper risk assessment or are still in an initial state. Advanced ultra-sensitive instrumental techniques should be used for quantitative determination of prioritized EPs in water, suspended matter, soil and biota. Data on EPs and their metabolites properties that determine their fate in the environment are often not available. National surveys on water quality use different parameters for water quality assessment and often do not include EPs. A harmonized monitoring of surface and groundwater is not yet achieved and urgently required. Specific component integrated into models assessing the fate of EPs in a multi compartment environmental approach are missing and must be developed. The main goal of risk assessment is the overall protection of ecological communities in the aquatic environment and human health. New methods for assessing the cumulative risks from combined exposures to several stressors, including mixtures of chemical and physical/biological agents in an multi-scale approach is required. A combination of regulations and management measures with respect to use/ emissions into the environment, their occurrence /concentration in the environment are fundamental to reach efficient water resource management.