Identifying emerging contaminants of concern

Identifying emerging contaminants of concern


Household waste at the landfill: one source of emerging contaminants of concern. (Photo: Auckland Regional Council)

NIWA is working with Auckland Regional Council to identify ‘emerging contaminants of concern’ which may be ending up in Auckland’s estuaries and harbours.

NIWA Scientist Michael Ahrens describes the project: "There is increasing awareness that some of the products we use in everyday life contain ingredients that eventually end up in our water courses and, ultimately, in fish and bivalves in the estuaries and harbours receiving stormwater and wastewater from urban areas. Some of the chemicals, such as plasticisers, fire retardants, and surfactants, are already known about, but there are also new compounds being introduced all the time."

NIWA’s role is to undertake a literature review and inventory of the many types of chemicals in use – ranging from household and personal care products to rodenticides and wood preservatives – and assess the potential harm these compounds might cause, especially if they accumulate in marine organisms. A current topic of considerable toxicological interest is the presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in treated sewage effluent, which, in high doses, might have similar effects to natural hormones such as oestrogen.

For analysing some of these compounds, NIWA is collaborating with scientists from the USA and Sweden, where similar studies have already been undertaken

Research subject: Oceans