March 01, 2018

Contaminants of Emerging Concern: A New Frontier for Hazardous Waste and Drinking Water Regulation

Jeff B. Kray and Sarah J. Wightman

A variety of unregulated or “emerging” contaminants are being discovered in drinking water and the environment throughout the United States. Although many of these chemicals have been in use since the mid-twentieth century, recent increased detection ability and awareness has confirmed their ubiquitous presence. There is growing public and regulatory concern about exposure to these contaminants, including perfluorinated compounds (PFCs); however, the scientific evidence regarding their health impacts still is not settled. This lack of scientific certainty is delaying regulatory action at the federal and state levels, where regulators are only beginning to address what the public increasingly believes is a major cause of concern. This article details the origin of perfluorinated compounds, the current scientific understanding of their impact, the existing regulatory landscape, and proposed solutions that will provide guidance and certainty for regulators and critical stakeholders, including drinking water suppliers, landowners, and public health advocates.

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