Emerging Contaminants


Photo of emerging contaminantsAs a result of everyday household use, trace amounts of chemicals from consumer products are accumulating in downstream water sources. Accumulating chemicals in waterways are cause for concern for the known and suspected risks they pose to human health and the environment.  Despite known risks, they continue to be widely prevalent in consumer products. Contaminants of emerging concern include a wide range of chemical compounds used in common household and personal care products such as lotions, soaps, insect repellents, and sunscreens.  They are of emerging concern because of associated risks they present to human health and the environment.


 Many members of the CIBR team continue to work on the initiative of raising the profile of emerging contaminants in New Zealand. An increasing number of signs indicate that it has become a significant issue. At a recent Regional Council Special Interest Group strategy meeting, Regional Councils agreed that ecotoxicology and emerging contaminants were areas that need greater attention and was part of their top priority list. Recent publicity around the presence of triclosan in widely used consumer products is another reminder that there is a need to better characterise the risks of emerging contaminants so that they can be better managed. Chris Arbuckle (Aspiring Environmental) has made good progress with the National Strategy to manage emerging contaminants. The document will be completed by the end of September.  


We are also working with colleagues Rai Kookana and Anu Kumar from CSIRO on another exciting emerging contaminants initiative.  The next of the conference series ‘What’s in our water’ (WiOW 2018) will be in Canberra at the Discovery Centre, Tuesday 30 October to Thursday 1st November 2018. The first two days would be for the conference followed by a workshop on the third day. The workshop would be to revisit the Black Mountain declaration that was signed by a scientists in 2007 to highlight the importance to better assess the risk of emerging contaminants. We are exploring options for the Black Mountain Declaration to underpin the development of an Australasian Directive Framework to manage emerging contaminants based on the European Union model. Such agreement would facilitate exchanges and collaborations across Australasia.



Picture of plastic wasteCIBR is also working closely with Olga Pantos from ESR on the planning of a workshop to discuss risk and management of plastics. There is much interest and concerns around the risk of plastics including increasing media coverage, e.g. Auckland Council are looking at developing policies and other groups like Gisborne District Council would like more info.

Olga will use an approach similar to the emerging contaminants workshop held in Wellington last December. We are hoping there will also be a workshop next December. David Weller (EPA) and Sarah Fish (MfE) are contributing to the process and have vested interest in the risk of plastics. There are many community driven initiatives. Andrew Jeffs (U Auckland) has interactions with Sustainable Coastlines, a community group trying to reduce plastic pollution and with strong community engagement in Auckland. Plastics can be considered an emerging contaminant with multiple implications, so it would be good to identify priorities and ensure cohesion across the different groups.  


Page update 8/9/17