In early August 2022, the Executive Office of the President of the United States announced a National Emerging Contaminant Research Initiative (NECRI) to “improve the identification, analysis, monitoring, and treatment methods of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), and develop any necessary program, policy, or budget to support the implementation of the initiative.” The NECRI will concentrate on drinking water and will also consider other media, where appropriate.
NCERI’s vision is focused on access to clean and plentiful drinking water for every person in the nation. To advance this vision, NECRI outlines a Federal strategy addressing “critical research gaps” related to the detection and evaluation of CECs in drinking water to identify potential adverse health effects and mitigate risk from exposure. Five strategic goals were identified, as summarized below.
Goal 1: Decrease the time from drinking water CEC identification to risk mitigation
Contaminant profiles will be generated to accelerate contaminant identification and exposure characterization, human health effects assessment, risk characterization, risk mitigation and risk communication. Advancements in exposure assessment and resulting risk characterization are outlined to focus on key factors: geographic areas, personal behavior, the effect of climate change on CEC release and toxicity and the impact to communities with higher risk. The emphasis will be on risk mitigation and prevention of CEC use, risk communication and messaging to fit community needs.
Goal 2: Promote technological innovation in tools to discover, track and mitigate drinking water CECs
Measurement and analysis tools will be developed to thoroughly establish the type and magnitude of a contaminant exposure, as well as potential effects. This goal will also encourage researchers to develop and deploy cost-effective and broadly applicable and accessible next-generation tools to aid in understanding CEC exposure and to also accelerate understanding of health effects.
Goal 3: Develop and deploy tools and approaches for drinking water CEC decision making
Research and analytical tools to support planning, research and policy decisions through data collection is a component that will be detailed through a decision framework. Anticipated use of advanced computational approaches to maximize understanding of the data, and provide feedback for further research, decision making and mitigation, is emphasized. Two specific tools are outlined for use: (1) tools to reduce uncertainty in decision making and (2) frameworks for decision making.
Goal 4: Coordinate transdisciplinary drinking water CEC research activities among Federal and non-Federal partners
Coordination of a network of CEC research centers to advance research and reduce the potential for duplicative efforts, as well as increase communication among collaborators. Ideally, the research centers would be linked to share data fully through a data repository.
Goal 5: Foster transparency and public trust when communicating information about drinking water CECs
It is important to establish transparency and build public trust among all collaborators and partners. CEC risk communication priorities include engagement and inclusion, communications research and incorporation of communications research into the CEC research network.
These five goals are laid out as the foundation of a plan for establishing research networks that can address the ongoing identification of emerging contaminants. Finally, a set of metrics are presented to measure and document the program’s progress and activities. Metrics for process, research, tools, coordination and health are outlined.
-  The NECRI is comprised of team members from many government agencies including NIH/ NIEHS, SBA, NASA, HHS/CDC/ ATSDR, DHS, DOT, FFA, FDA, USDA< IST, DoD, OMB, EPA, NSF, DOE, USGS, NRC.
TRC Can Assist in Tracking and Evaluation of CECs
With so many chemicals in use, and new ones emerging constantly, how would you know when and if you need to to worry when they are introduced? We can help you work through these issues and risks. The TRC Center of Research and Expertise (CORE) Emerging Contaminants team actively monitors and assesses over 50 chemicals and issues that may disrupt your operations or cause community or regulatory concern. Some of these include PFAS, microplastics, harmful algal blooms and others.
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