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The Ministry of the Environment starts to monitor new substances hazardous to the aquatic environment


The European Commission has decided to thoroughly monitor ten new hazardous substances, causing irreversible deleterious changes in living organisms, for example, diseases or genetic abnormalities.
Hazardous substances occur as a result of human activity, for example of industrial processes, medicines and plant protection products. If such substances get into watercourses, they can also reach the human food.

All Member States of the European Union must seek and measure these ten substances in their territories over the next three years. The goal is to learn where and how much these substances occur in nature. The information will serve as the basis for deciding the tolerance limit of such substances in a way that it would be safe for humans and the environment.

“Since the spread of substances through water is a cross-border phenomenon, all Member States have to equally commit to reducing the use of these substances and protecting the aquatic environment. For example, diclofenac, a very widely used medicine that belongs to the list of monitored substances, has been found in the Estonian waters. However, medicinal products should not end up in the aquatic environment and plants and animals should not come into contact with the human medicines,” Head of the Water Department of the Ministry of Environment Rene Reisner explained.

In order to identify the substances, the water samples will be taken from the sites selected on the basis of the previous risk analysis. The substances will be particularly sought from places, where it is the greatest probability to find them, for example, the proximity of urban wastewater treatment plants or water bodies in the vicinity of the users of these substances. Single water samples are taken for the primary assessments; if there is a reason for further studies, the number of samples may also be higher.

As soon as the limits of hazardous substances are identified, it should further monitored that they are not exceeded in nature. This could mean that something should be changed in using such substances, for example, more efficient wastewater treatment plants should be implemented.

In case the content of these substances is too high in the water bodies, such aquatic areas in which the tolerance limit is exceeded and the safety of humans and other living organisms may be put into danger should be further clearly specified in the near vicinity of the pollution sources.

The tolerance limits of hazardous substances have already been previously determined for natural aquatic environment in terms of all basic dangerous substances.

The new monitored substances are the following:

  • 17-alpha-ethinyl-estradiol and 17-beta-estradiol are hormone treatment ingredients
  • Diclofenac is one of the medicinal ingredients
  • 2,6-di-tert-butyl-4-methylphenol is an additive, which is used in medicines and industrial processes
  • 2-ethylhexyl-4-methoxycinnamate is a chemical blocking agent, which is used in creams
  • Macrolides are antibiotics
  • Methiocarb is a plant protection product used in agriculture and meant for deterring snails and slugs
  • Neonicotinoids are potent insecticides
  • Oxadiazon is a plant protection product
  • Tri-allate is a plant protection product

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