Superfund Research Program
Transport, Transformation, and Remediation of Contaminants in the Environment
Project Leader: Kate M. Scow
Grant Number: P42ES004699
Funding Period: 1995-2015
The vast majority of chemicals that are purposefully manufactured or incidentally produced by environmental reactions have never been the subject of environmental monitoring. A key question is whether these unrecognized compounds pose significant environmental risks compared with the compounds that are the subject of routine monitoring efforts. Gas and liquid chromatography with high resolution mass spectrometry was used to monitor surface water for 53 target compounds, mostly insecticides, before, during and after storms (Moschet et al., 2017). The results were also screened for over 5000 water contaminants, pesticides, and pesticide transformation products using commercial and in-house databases resulting in an additional 120 suspect and nontarget compound detections. Maximum risk quotients were largest for the target insecticides, but compounds not on the target list were commonly found in every sample, and were found at the highest concentrations; a number of these compounds, including organophosphate flame retardants and perfluorinated compounds, have no available aquatic toxicity information, and so their risk quotients could not be calculated. Several environmental transformation products not previously observed in the environmennt were also detected. The results highlight the need for more comprehensive testing of commercial chemicals for aquatic toxicity and improved understanding of the effects on aquatic organisms of exposure to complex mixtures of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, pharmaceuticals and household products.