- What is it?
An Emerging Contaminant is a chemical or material that has pathways to enter the environment and present potential unacceptable human health or environmental risks and either (1) do not have regulatory peer-reviewed human health standards or (2) the regulatory standards are evolving due to new science, detection capabilities, or pathways. Some emerging contaminants have never been regulated by any state or the federal government; some may have been regulated, but the regulations are changing due to new analytical methods that detect the chemical or compound at increasingly lower levels.
Emerging Contaminants also may be new substances, chemicals or metabolites, or microorganisms.
Some Emerging Contaminants are older chemicals with:
- newly expanded distribution or altered releases,
- newly found in the environment and not commonly monitored, and/or
- newly recognized or exhibit poorly characterized/documented effects.
Examples of ECs:
- Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) – Refrigerants, fire suppressants, solvents, others that have been or are being phased out of production.
- Perchlorate – Munitions/propellant oxidizer; highly water soluble; affects thyroid function; intense Congressional interest regarding DoD releases.
- Personal care products / Pharmaceuticals – Possible endocrine disruptors; subject of much press due to presence in finished drinking water.
- Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) or perfluoroalkyls – Examples of the most widely know C8-chemicals include perfluoroctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA); found in fire-fighting and stain-resistant products; highly persistent; expected production phase-out was 95% by 2010, 100% by 2015 but old chemical stocks still found in many current products.
- Naphthalene – Primary ingredient in mothballs; component of JP-8, aviation, automobile fuels; proposed ‘carcinogenicity’ listing by US EPA would affect PPE, handling, storing, transporting naphthalene.
- Sulfur Hexafluoride – Greenhouse gas (GHG) or ‘global warming’ gas used in electrical and other essential applications.
- Nanomaterials – Very wide use of nanomaterials, e.g., nanozinc in sunscreens, nanocomponents in medicines, nanocarbons in cleanup applications (Zero Valent Iron) and military and commercial airframes; difficult to analyze for; found in foods, air, dust, water, and in mammalian and plant tissues.
- What has the Army done?
The Army participates on the Materials of Evolving Regulatory Interest Team (MERIT) as working members to evaluate many different compounds and/or chemicals from different areas of expertise, such as acquisition, toxicology, handling, storage, transporting, cleanup and disposal. The team examines each compound/chemical from many angles, such as what weapons, systems, or compounds of military use the constituent is in. The team, made up of representatives from the military services and offices across the federal government, collaborate to decide whether a particular compound/chemical should be on the Scan (keep an eye on), Watch (more scrutiny), or Action (do something NOW) list.
- What does the Army have planned?
The Army is committed to understanding better and acting earlier to manage risks from emerging contaminants, and will continue to serve as a member of MERIT and continue collaborating to identify and develop mitigation measures for emerging contaminants. Strategic risk reduction investments enable the Army to protect Soldiers, Civilians and Families proactively, sustain operational capabilities, and minimize unanticipated future costs.
- Why is this important?
Emerging Contaminants are found globally, and in our foods, water, and tissues. Some are very persistent in the environment and in mammals and plants; others break down fairly rapidly. Emerging contaminants can have adverse health effects on Army Soldiers, Civilians, Families and the communities outisde our gates. They can affect Army training, readiness and operations through restrictions on facilities. Increased regulation of a contaminant can result in increased research, development, cleanup and maintenance and disposal costs for the Army, which drain already scarce resources from other mission needs.
- Read more about it:
- DOD Instruction 4715.18, Emerging Contaminants (ECs)
- Lead (Pb) Study: Potential Health Risks to DOD Firing-Range Personnel from Recurrent Lead Exposure
There are many sources of assistance for ECs; a few primary ones include:
- DoD Chemical and Material Risk Management Program
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Environmental Management Division, Proactive Risk Mitigation
- National Nanotechnology Initiative – National presidential-level coordination office; management and response to nanomaterials spread among several agencies (i.e., DoD, DOE, DOT, EPA, FDA, NIH, NIST, NIOSH, NSF, OSHA, USDA, USGS); only example for a specific class of emerging contaminants across US federal agencies
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Office of Research & Development
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program