UL to Help Monitor for Emerging Contaminants

U.S. citizens depend on affordable access to safe drinking water supplied by the nation's 160,000 public waters systems. But when media reports chronicle trace amounts of pharmaceutical contaminants in these systems, people naturally wonder whether drinking water poses long-term health risks.

Underwriters Laboratories® is committed to supporting the drinking water community in addressing the problem. Data generated through its comprehensive analytical services is helping water utilities and government agencies understand this complex issue.

The presence of emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, is not a new issue in water. Advancements in analytical technologies enable laboratories to analyze more contaminants in drinking water and do so with greater specificity and sensitivity. Only a few laboratories, including UL, have developed methods to detect pharmaceuticals and other compounds at ultra-low levels. However, significant research is still required to understand both the scope of the problem and its implications for the drinking water supply.

Over the past eight years, UL has invested in such equipment as high performance liquid chromatography with triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (HPLC/MS/MS). This technology, coupled with various sample preparation techniques, has enabled the lab to develop several analytical methods to detect a wide range of emerging contaminants in the parts-per-trillion-concentration range.

UL's capabilities also include analysis of estrogens and other hormones, phenolic endocrine disrupters, brominated and phosphate flame retardants, herbicide degradates, and perfluorochemicals.

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