Exposure to emerging contaminants, even at extremely low doses, can cause adverse health effects for humans, including endocrine disruption which can lead to developmental malformations, interference with reproduction, increased cancer risk and disturbances in the immune and nervous system functions.
These emerging contaminants include pharmaceuticals and personal care products, hormones, perfluorinated alkyls and volatile organics, and they may pose a threat to both the environment and human health.
The presence of hormones and pharmaceuticals in groundwater used for drinking poses a potential threat to human health. Laura Bexfield’s presentation, “Hormones and pharmaceuticals in groundwater used as a source of drinking water across the world,” explores the results of the US Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment Project study.
The assessment found at least one hormone or pharmaceutical in untreated groundwater at six per cent of 844 sites representing the resource used for public supply, and at 11 per cent of 247 sites representing the resource used for domestic supply. While the impact on public health is likely minimal based on comparisons of measured concentrations to health benchmarks, individuals who receive their drinking water from domestic wells or wells completed in fractured rocks have a higher chance of exposure.
The presence of chemicals and drugs also poses a threat to our ecosystem as these substances continue to taint natural ponds and creeks. Stormwater best management practices employ the use of retention/detention ponds, commonly known as stormwater catchment basins, to capture runoff and its pollutants. This can result in very high contaminant concentrations in sediments that impact the ecological function of the ponds.