Emerging Contaminants: A Toxic Cocktail You Won’t Find in a Bar

Environmental and public health threats are common themes in breakout sessions at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference, and some of those threats may come from your medicine cabinet. Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and agricultural runoff are just some of the things forming a vast chemical soup in the Great Lakes. This toxic cocktail is full of emerging contaminants. While definitions of these substances may vary, the U.S. Geological Survey says:

Lake Superior shoreline - early fall, Lake Superior, Minnesota: Wisconsin Division of Tourism

“Emerging contaminants” can be broadly defined as any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical or any microorganism that is not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and(or) human health effects.”

These contaminants can interfere with the natural hormone system of people and wildlife, potentially causing cancer, birth defects and development disorders. They can enter the environment through domestic, commercial and industrial sources.

You won’t find this toxic cocktail in a bar, but through research, treatment strategies, policy reform and changes in chemical production and consumer behavior it may be possible to bar these harmful chemicals in the world’s largest fresh water system.


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One Response to Emerging Contaminants: A Toxic Cocktail You Won’t Find in a Bar

  1. Russell Bimber says:

    An emerging contaminant that seems to have been overlooked by most people is reported by workers at the University of South Florida. it is formed from chlorothalonil fungicide by replacement of one chlorine atom by a hydroxyl group; see “chlorothalonil” in Wikipedia, and look for the reference from the U SF. It may have an important role in the algal blooms in western Lake Erie and elsewhere.

    (I was involved in the development of chlorothalonil, but have been retired for more than twenty years. I find their claims credible.)