Pollutants of emerging concern

Recent studies of Minnesota’s waters show that a wide variety of unregulated chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, fragrances, fire retardants, and insecticides, are ending up in lakes and rivers. Many of these substances have properties that can interfere with the functioning of hormones in animals and people. Some mimic the effects of hormones in animals and negatively impact growth and development. These endocrine-active compounds are not acutely toxic at the levels normally found in the environment, but over time can impact organisms at very low concentrations. Sources of these chemicals to waters include wastewater discharges, runoff from animal agriculture, and air pollution.

The MPCA has developed methods to help characterize adverse effects of these chemicals on aquatic life. Read the file below for an example of this.

New study on drugs, chemicals in Minnesota waters

A new study released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency confirms that lakes and streams across Minnesota are contaminated by pharmaceuticals, cosmetic ingredients and endocrine-disrupting compounds. This is the latest study in a series investigating the presence of these chemicals in Minnesota’s surface water.

Endocrine-active compounds

Some chemicals can mimic the effects of hormones in animals and cause adverse physiologic effects, such as changes to the reproductive system or to the growth and development of an organism. These chemicals are called "endocrine active" compounds (EACs). These compounds do not usually exhibit acute toxicity at the levels normally found in the environment, but instead can alter the normal functioning and growth of the exposed organism at very low concentrations.

In the last decade, national and statewide studies have revealed that many chemicals with known or suggested endocrine-disrupting potential are found in the aquatic environment. These chemicals include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, chemicals associated with wastewater effluent, and a variety of industrial compounds. Apart from the disquieting realization that wastewater chemicals and drugs are detectable in much of our surface water, there is a growing concern that even at low concentrations, chemicals, or mixtures of them, may adversely affect fish, wildlife, ecosystems and possibly human health.

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