Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) Clean Water Legacy - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) Protecting Minnesota’s Water Resources

Microplastics: Small Particles, Big Challenges

image of hands sifting through small plastic particles and sand from a beach; image includes date, time, and location of event which is also included in the text of this website.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019
9:00AM  to 3:00PM

Wilder Foundation
451 Lexington Avenue North
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104

Join the Minnesota Department of Health for this year’s contaminants of emerging concern (CEC) forum, Microplastics: Small Particles, Big Challenges, on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. This is an exciting opportunity to learn and share perspectives on the complex and dynamic challenge of microplastics in the environment. The meeting is designed as a forum for networking and discussion across the science and policy sectors, with a specific goal to generate ideas for future work on microplastics.

Presentations will discuss the challenges of studying microplastics, how plastics enter the environment in Minnesota, the fate of microplastics in the environment, and behaviors that reduce plastic pollution. Attendees will participate in a discussion exploring opportunities to advance our understanding of microplastics in Minnesota, identify potential partnerships, and inspire pollution prevention actions.

We are looking forward to hearing from you in October as we continue advancing on the frontier of this exciting work in Minnesota!
Registration required: Microplastics: Small Particles, Big Challenges.

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 has updated 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 has developed a draft annual work plan for fiscal year 2020, which was discussed at a public meeting on June 6, 2019.

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.

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. 

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:

  • have been found in groundwater, surface water, or soil; or
  • have not been found in Minnesota, but have the potential to enter our waters. 

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.

CEC Nomination and Selection Process

MDH staff conducted screenings of toxicity and exposure potential for nominated contaminants that have sufficient toxicological information available for an in-depth toxicological review. Based on the screening results, MDH assigned a preliminary ranking of high, medium, or low to each contaminant. MDH uses the preliminary ranking to inform selection of contaminants for an in-depth toxicological review and guidance development.

Preliminary Ranking of Eligible Contaminants for the FY2020 Workplan (PDF)

At an open meeting on June 6, 2019, MDH discussed our screening process and contaminants we identified as good candidates for guidance development in the upcoming fiscal year (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020). With approximately 20 stakeholders, we agreed to the draft workplan below:

Draft Water Guidance Workplan FY2020 (PDF)

The slide deck from the meeting is also available: Contaminants of Emerging Concern Review Prioritization Meeting (PPT)

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:

Contaminant Evaluation and Review

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

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.

Updated Friday, 09-Aug-2019 10:26:37 CDT