Friday, June 08, 2007

What's Emerging in your Water?

There is a nice review of Emerging Contaminants, recently published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, by Susan Richardson. In it is a review of the "oldies" like PFOA, PFOS, and polybrominated flame retardants and newbies like nanomaterials and ethylene dibromide or EDB, a gasoline additive from back in the day when gasoline was leaded.

In the excerpt below she discusses the term “Emerging,” a term over which I sometimes stumble.
Which chemicals fit into the category of emerging contaminants? Why are some chemicals which have been around for decades suddenly appear as “emerging” and, why are others, which have yet to be detected in major quantities (like the category of nanomaterials – which describes a type of chemical rather than any one specific chemical) on the list?

“Emerging environmental contaminants were the focus of a recent issue of Environmental Science & Technology (December 1, 2006), where current research on emerging chemical and microbial contaminants was highlighted. This is a must-read issue, and several of those papers will be discussed in this review. The guest editors of this issue also published an excellent perspective on "What is emerging?" as a lead-off editorial to this issue, which points out that the longevity of a contaminant's "emerging" status is typically determined by whether the contaminant is persistent or has potentially harmful human or ecological effects (2). It is often the case that emerging contaminants have actually been present in the environment for some time (in some cases, decades), but they are discovered through a wider search of potential contaminants (as in the case of ethylene dibromide, in this current review) or through the use of new technologies (such as LC/MS) that have enabled their discovery and measurement in the environment for the first time (as in the case of many pharmaceuticals).”

Although a bit technical in spots (this is Analytical Chemistry afterall,) the current literature for each emerging contaminant is reviewed in a readable manner, and there is an impressive list of over 200 citations for those looking to learn more.