North Carolina Sea Grant

July 7, 2023 | Katie Mosher

North Carolina Sea Grant among the collaborators for research on emerging contaminants.

Judy Benson,  Connecticut Sea Grant:
Frank López, North Carolina Sea Grant,

Fish, shellfish, insect, water and sediment samples from urban coastal areas from the Chesapeake Bay to Northern New England will be analyzed for the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in four research projects commissioned by a partnership of the Connecticut, New Hampshire and North Carolina Sea Grant programs.

The awards will fund research in New Haven, Connecticut; Norfolk and Hampton, Virginia; Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island; and Lake Champlain in Vermont and New York that is part of the Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) project begun by the three Sea Grant programs in 2021. National Sea Grant funding supports the CECs project and the research.

“North Carolina Sea Grant is proud to be a key collaborator on emerging contaminants research,” notes Frank López, NC Sea Grant extension director. “These new projects will provide research and outreach tools that we and others along the East Coast will use and/or adapt.”

The four awards, ranging from $150,00 to $113,236 each, will focus on communities with environmental justice concerns and industrial chemical residues posing the highest levels of concern among researchers, health experts and the public. This framework for the research call was informed by a national survey conducted by the CECs project. All four projects include outreach and education to the impacted communities about the results and possible actions to limit exposure, such as advising subsistence fishermen and their families to limit eating the most affected species.

CECs are a broad category of chemical residues from commonly used household and industrial products increasingly found in coastal and freshwater environments. Research thus far indicates these can be harmful to human and wildlife health, but much more analysis is needed to identify the most dangerous levels, cumulative impacts and the most effective mitigation strategies. While residues of medicines, cleaning products and fertilizers are among the CECs most commonly detected, chemicals known as PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) have emerged as the most potentially problematic due to their persistence in the environment and tendency to bioaccumulate in fish and other marine animals. Three of the four projects will focus specifically on PFAS.

“Contaminants of Emerging Concern are by definition under-studied and not well regulated,” said Sylvain De Guise, director of Connecticut Sea Grant and principal investigator on the CEC project. “These studies will enhance our understanding of CECs and help protect environmental and human health, which are closely related.”

The four projects are:





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