Environmental and public health threats are common themes in breakout sessions at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference, and some of those threats may come from your medicine cabinet. Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and agricultural runoff are just some of the things forming a vast chemical soup in the Great Lakes. This toxic cocktail is full of emerging contaminants. While definitions of these substances may vary, the U.S. Geological Survey says:
“Emerging contaminants” can be broadly defined as any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical or any microorganism that is not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and(or) human health effects.”
These contaminants can interfere with the natural hormone system of people and wildlife, potentially causing cancer, birth defects and development disorders. They can enter the environment through domestic, commercial and industrial sources.
You won’t find this toxic cocktail in a bar, but through research, treatment strategies, policy reform and changes in chemical production and consumer behavior it may be possible to bar these harmful chemicals in the world’s largest fresh water system.