Review of risk from potential emerging contaminants in UK groundwater

Sci Total Environ. 2012 Feb 1:416:1-21. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2011.11.072. Epub 2011 Dec 29.


This paper provides a review of the types of emerging organic groundwater contaminants (EGCs) which are beginning to be found in the UK. EGCs are compounds being found in groundwater that were previously not detectable or known to be significant and can come from agricultural, urban and rural point sources. EGCs include nanomaterials, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial compounds, personal care products, fragrances, water treatment by-products, flame retardants and surfactants, as well as caffeine and nicotine. Many are relatively small polar molecules which may not be effectively removed by drinking water treatment. Data from the UK Environment Agency's groundwater screening programme for organic pollutants found within the 30 most frequently detected compounds a number of EGCs such as pesticide metabolites, caffeine and DEET. Specific determinands frequently detected include pesticides metabolites, pharmaceuticals including carbamazepine and triclosan, nicotine, food additives and alkyl phosphates. This paper discusses the routes by which these compounds enter groundwater, their toxicity and potential risks to drinking water and the environment. It identifies challenges that need to be met to minimise risk to drinking water and ecosystems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Groundwater* / analysis
  • Humans
  • Pesticides / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Risk Assessment
  • United Kingdom
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / adverse effects
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Pesticides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical