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Environmental Contaminants in Aquatic Systems and Chemical Safety for Environmental and Human Health

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Given the finite supply of water available for human use, the continued chemical contamination of the aquatic environment may pose a significant human health hazard. Consequently, an effort must be made to develop ambient water quality criteria to protect human health and preserve the integrity of the aquatic ...

Given the finite supply of water available for human use, the continued chemical contamination of the aquatic environment may pose a significant human health hazard. Consequently, an effort must be made to develop ambient water quality criteria to protect human health and preserve the integrity of the aquatic environment. In developing water quality criteria based on human health effects, information on sources of exposure, pharmacokinetics, and adverse effects must be carefully evaluated and acknowledged. Information and fundamental knowledge on the sources of exposure are needed to determine the contribution of exposure from water relative to all other sources.

Human exposure to hazardous agents in our food, air, and water contributes to illness, disability, and death. Poor environmental quality has its greatest impact on people whose health may already be at risk, notably pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and people with preexisting illnesses. National efforts to ensure clean and safe food and water supplies continue to contribute significantly to improvements in public health and prevention of disability.

Currently, carcinogenicity and mutagenicity are considered to be non-threshold effects. For carcinogens and mutagens, criteria are calculated by postulating an "acceptable" increased level of risk and using extrapolation models to estimate the dose which would result in this increased level of risk. For other chemicals, thresholds are assumed and criteria are calculated by deriving "acceptable daily intakes" for man which would presumably result in no observable adverse effects.

Human biomonitoring studies show that many environmental contaminants, including known and potential carcinogens, are finding their way into people’s bodies. The sources of these contaminants are wide-ranging: (1) pesticides, which are the conventional fertilizers used in agriculture, industry, home, and garden, as well as chlorine and other disinfectants, and wood preservatives; (2) industrial chemicals, wastes, and waste byproducts from mining facilities, smelting operations, chemical manufacturing and processing plants, petrochemical plants, and medical and municipal waste facilities; (3) chemicals in consumer products, including building materials, furniture, and food packaging materials, and cosmetics; and (4) pollution from coal-fired power plants, automobile exhaust, and other sources. Such substances may, with further study, turn out to be definitively carcinogenic, and causing transmitting and infectious diseases.

It has long been known that exposure to high levels of certain chemicals, such as those in some occupational settings, can cause cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States; it accounts for 1 in 4 deaths in the US and claims more than 1,500 lives a day. There is now growing scientific evidence that exposure to lower levels of chemicals in the general environment is contributing to society’s cancer burden and health hazard. It is eminent to adapt the emerging regulations, treatment technologies, public awareness, resource management, and policy assessment to overcome the environmental contaminants related threat and issues in environmental, mostly the aquatic systems. Moreover, the chemical safety for environmental and human health is a mandatory concern and proper management and regulations are necessary to adopt advanced and accurate safety measures.


Keywords: environmental contaminants, chemical safety, aquatic system pollution, environmental and human health, carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, ambient water quality


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