Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC)
Protecting Minnesota’s Water Resources
The CEC Initiative
Through this initiative, MDH collaborates with partners and the public to identify contaminants of interest; investigates the health and exposure potential of contaminants of emerging concern in water; and informs partners and the public of appropriate actions for pollution prevention and reducing exposures to contaminants that might be unhealthy. The initiative 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. The CEC Initiative has three main areas of work:
Through this initiative, MDH scientists with experience in exposure assessment, toxicology, water resources, and communication collaborate closely with other state agencies and groups outside of MDH. Partners include the public; various local, state, and federal government agencies; academic organizations; non-profit groups; industry groups; and drinking water and wastewater professional organizations.
Contaminant Selection Process Changing to Increase Transparency and Engagement
The Health Risk Assessment Unit is updating our processes for selecting contaminants to develop health-based guidance values in the Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) Initiative. The process change is designed to increase stakeholder engagement and overall transparency in the nomination and selection process.
The updates align the CEC selection process more closely with the selection process for contaminants reviewed under the Health Risk Limits (HRL) activities. The updated processes also consider the recommendations made by the University of Minnesota in a 2016 review of the CEC Initiative’s selection process.
The most significant change is that the CEC Initiative will develop a draft annual work plan for fiscal year 2020, which will be discussed at a public meeting on June 6, 2019. Key dates to accommodate that meeting are:
March 8, 2019: Nominations Received. Contaminants that have been nominated through our online process or directly to program staff before March 8, 2019 will be eligible for the 2020 workplan. This allows our staff to conduct the toxicity and exposure screenings necessary to inform selection discussion in June 2019. MDH will continue to accept nominations on a rolling basis to be included on future work plans.
In the event of an urgent need for health-based guidance for a specific contaminant, MDH will develop guidance for a contaminant not nominated by March 8, 2019 or included on the annual work plan. In that event, stakeholders will be notified via our GovDelivery email list.
Late April 2019: Nominated Status Table and Eligible Contaminants Posted. Between March and April, MDH will screen nominated contaminants for eligibility for health-based guidance development. At the end of April, we will post an updated Nominated Contaminants Status Table and indicate which contaminants are eligible for inclusion in the 2020 work plan.
Late May 2019: Preliminary Ranking and Meeting Materials Posted. MDH will preliminary rank contaminants for inclusion in the 2020 work plan, which will help guide discussion at the June meeting. Other relevant meeting materials will also be posted to the website.
June 6, 2019: Public meeting. MDH will host a public meeting to discuss and set a draft work plan for the year. All interested stakeholders are invited.
Receiving Notifications on Contaminant Selection Activities
The best way to stay up to date with contaminant selection activities is to subscribe to our GovDelivery email. Major announcements will be posted to our website and shared via GovDelivery.
Contaminants of Emerging Concern Outreach and Education Grants
Applications for Education and Outreach Grants are being accepted through April 1, 2019 at 4:30 PM.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announces funding available to support the outreach and education efforts of the Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) initiative. The purpose of the grant program is to enhance Minnesotans’ understanding and knowledge of contaminants of emerging concern in water that may be used for drinking. Under this grant program, MDH will consider proposed projects that:
- raise awareness of emerging contaminants, how they enter the environment, and their health impacts;
- highlight the values of clean drinking water and how activities of MDH’s Contaminants of Emerging Concern Initiative (health-based guidance development, rapid assessments, and other special projects) contribute to Minnesota’s clean water;
- promote individual, family, and community behaviors that reduce environmental releases of emerging contaminants, or
- contribute to the understanding of Minnesotans’ knowledge and attitudes about emerging contaminants in the state’s water resources.
Funded programs may result in:
- Community or personal actions;
- Community events;
- New media products or literature;
- Workshops or conferences;
- Other public and stakeholder engagement activities; or
- Electronic materials/programs.
Why we study contaminants of emerging concern
Water quality studies and monitoring in Minnesota find contaminants from products or sources we never suspected in places we never expected, like our lakes, rivers, groundwater and drinking water. These emerging contaminants are found because:
- improved research methods allow us to look for new chemicals at lower levels than previously possible;
- industry and individuals are using new chemicals in a variety of products and applications; and
- old chemicals are being used in new ways.
- have been found in groundwater, surface water, or soil; or
- have not been found in Minnesota, but have the potential to enter our waters.
The work of this initiative helps MDH understand the potential health effects of these contaminants.
Differences between the CEC Initiative and other MDH health-based guidance programs
Prior to the Clean Water Fund, MDH was only able to develop human health-based guidances for contaminants that have already been found in groundwater in Minnesota. Through the CEC initiative, MDH takes a proactive approach to the protection of drinking water by considering contaminants that:
Additionally, this initiative provides information on how people are exposed to these contaminants. These differences separate the work of this initiative from MDH’s other guidance work and supplements existing work.
The CEC initiative is proud to include citizen-submitted nominations in our chemical selection process. You can nominate contaminants for consideration by visiting the Nominate Contaminants page. In addition, Minnesota risk managers, stakeholders, and the public are encouraged to nominate contaminants. MDH staff identify additional candidate chemicals through our research and outreach with stakeholders. Health and exposure criteria are used to evaluate and prioritize nominated chemicals. The goal of the CEC initiative is to evaluate (screen) at least ten nominated chemicals every year to identify chemicals for guidance development. The status of each nomination is kept, updated, and summarized in the following table:
MDH staff research where and how a contaminant is used in the state, its potential to enter Minnesota waters, and its toxicity to humans. If there is sufficient information on health effects, staff calculate water guidance - a concentration of contaminant in water that poses little or no health risk to people drinking that water. For some contaminants, the information is too limited. In this case, the guidance may describe the hazard posed by the chemical instead of a certain level in water. Our goal is to provide guidance for ten contaminants every two years.
Reviews of chemicals consist of (1) an exposure review, documenting the typical uses of the chemical and where releases are likely to occur (in coordination with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), and other parties with access to relevant information); and (2) a toxicological review, providing the most current information on the adverse health effects from exposure to the chemical. Refer to the Health-Based Guidance Development Process web page for more information on guidance development.
CEC Special Projects allow MDH staff and qualified partners to consider important questions or issues surrounding CECs. These special projects can be focused on a particular CEC or group of CECs, or they may be designed to increase outreach or provide refined methods in order to evaluate the toxicity of CECs in the future. More information is provided on the Special Projects page.