4. Action plan on monitoring and assessment of EDCs in freshwater

The presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in water (EDCs) is potentially harmful to human health and the integrity of ecosystems. Prevailing methods of water quality monitoring and regulation, based on the substance-by-substance analysis of chemical concentrations in water, have been effective in managing pollution. However, prevailing methods have reached their limits in achieving water quality objectives: there is a growing body of evidence that current methods do not capture the complex and diverse chemical pressures on water. More chemicals are registered than ever before, while the global production capacity of chemicals is also increasing. Moreover, the global impacts of climate change on water, notably intensified flood and drought events, could increase the chemical burden through remobilisation of chemicals from sediments, sewer overflows, increased wastewater recycling, as well as reduced dilution capacity. At the same time, we better understand the risks of chemical pollution, such as risks stemming from mixtures, by-products, metabolites, and lower concentrations of chemicals.

All in all, there is need for methods that capture a broader range of substances than currently monitored, that are more sensitive to lower concentrations, and proactively warn about emerging (potential) risks. This publication therefore recommends adopting new methods, notably bioassays, to better monitor and assess the quality of water bodies, groundwater, (recycled) wastewater and drinking water. Whilst bioassays are increasingly adopted for water quality monitoring, some regulators and utilities are still exploring the practical implementation of bioassays (and other methods).

Table 4.1 presents a policy-oriented action plan that supports the implementation of new methods for monitoring and assessing EDCs. It is targeted at ministries, environment agencies and utilities who are interested in making a start with assessing and monitoring of EDCs in water.

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