Contaminants of Emerging Concern
Protecting Minnesota’s Water Resources

What is the CEC Program?

Through this program, MDH is investigating and communicating the health and exposure potential of contaminants of emerging concern in drinking water. The program supports the Clean Water Fund mission to protect drinking water sources and the MDH mission to protect, maintain, and improve the health of all Minnesotans. 

What are contaminants of emerging concern?

A contaminant is generally a substance that is in a place where it doesn’t belong. Contaminants of emerging concern are substances that have been released to, found in, or have the potential to enter Minnesota waters (groundwater or surface water) and:

  • do not have Minnesota human health-based guidance (how much of a substance is safe to drink);
  • pose a real or perceived health threat; or
  • have new or changing health or exposure information.

They can include pharmaceuticals, pesticides, industrial effluents, personal care products that are washed down drains and processed by municipal wastewater treatment plants, and others.

Why are we studying contaminants of emerging concern?

New contaminants are being found in Minnesota waters. This is due, in part, because:

  • there are better methods for finding substances at lower levels;
  • additional substances are being looked for;
  • new substances are being used; and
  • old substances are being used in new ways. 

The work of this program helps MDH understand the potential health effects of these contaminants. 

How is this different from other MDH health-based guidance programs?

MDH currently develops human health-based guidance for contaminants that have already been found in groundwater in Minnesota. Under the CEC program, MDH takes a proactive approach to the protection of drinking water by considering contaminants that:

  • have been found in groundwater, surface water, or soil; or
  • have not been found (or looked for) in Minnesota at all. 

Additionally, this program provides information on how people are exposed to these contaminants. These differences separate the work of this program from MDH’s other guidance work and supplements existing work.


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Updated Friday, May 06, 2016 at 11:41AM