Independent scientific research for the benefit of New Zealand.

Emerging organic contaminants – Managing the Risks

Emerging organic contaminants (EOCs) are natural or manufactured chemicals, many of which are found in common household and personal care products, pharmaceuticals and agrichemicals.

Despite increasing amounts of these chemicals being released into the environment, their use and discharge is still largely unregulated, mainly because their effects are associated with long-term cumulative exposure, rather than immediate effects. In recent years however, regulators, the food industry, Māori and wider community networks and the international science community have become increasingly concerned about the risks EOCs can pose to human and ecosystem health.

Starting in 2018, this 5-year programme aims to identify which EOCs are predominant in New Zealand’s aquatic ecosystems and to characterise the risks they pose to our unique taonga. Their potential for accumulation in food and the role EOCs play in the development of antimicrobial resistance will also be investigated. The project has a strong focus on Iwi, community, policy, industry and stakeholder engagement to raise awareness, and to support informed discussion and the design of practical strategies to better manage the risks and impacts of EOCs in New Zealand.

The multi-disciplinary team of toxicologists, chemists, microbiologists and social scientists will work in partnership with iwi, key community stakeholders, environmental managers and policy makers in two case-study/catchment sites: the Whau River (Auckland) and the Mataura River (Southland).  The structure of the programme includes a National Advisory Panel to oversee the progress of the research and ensure alignment with the National Strategy document on emerging contaminants. This work aims to enhance regional and national frameworks for managing the risks of EOCs in New Zealand, to safeguard our people and natural environments from their harmful impacts, and ensure that our food export products continue to meet all necessary trade requirements.

Funder: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Partners and collaborators: Cawthron Institute, Northcott Consultants, Streamlined Environmental Ltd., ESR, Aspiring Environmental, University of Canterbury, Griffith University, Partners and champions at the 2 study sites in Auckland and Southland.

National Advisory Panel: ESR, Cawthron Institute, NZ Food Safety Science and Research Centre, Southland Regional Council, ECan, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Waikato Regional Council, Auckland Regional Council, Ministry for the Environment, Environmental Protection Authority, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, EPA Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, Sanford Ltd.

For more information, please contact Dr Louis Tremblay.

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Cawthron Institute research proposals to receive over $20 million from MBIE

This programme aims to identify the risks posed by EOCs found in common household and personal care products, pharmaceuticals and agrichemicals to human and ecosystem health, and to our unique taonga.