Occurrence and Impact of Emerging Contaminants in Nigeria's Freshwater Resources

Occurrence and Impact of Emerging Contaminants in Nigeria's Freshwater Resources

Sinmi Abosede (Pan Atlantic University, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1871-7.ch002

Abstract

The presence of emerging contaminants (ECs) in freshwater presents a major challenge as they pose serious threats to human life and ecosystems. It is essential that water is of good quality before it can be used by communities and benefit the environment. Nigeria is blessed with abundant water resources; however, the country lacks effective and efficient institutions to provide sanitation services to treat domestic waste and to monitor and regulate industries, helping them protect the environment by ensuring they treat their industrial waste before discharging to the water bodies. Various ECs have been detected in the nation's freshwater resources. They pose significant threat to the environment, and they have the potential to harm aquatic life and human health. Nigeria needs a comprehensive and integrated water resources management plan that gives priority to the monitoring, detection, and treatment of emerging contaminants to mitigate against the potential risks that occur when they are present in freshwater resources.
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Introduction

Water is essential to life and it is needed to sustain livelihoods and the environment. This has been manifested by the United Nations Development Agenda, and access to good quality water is at the heart of the attainment of majority of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly, Goals 3, 6 and 14. SDG Goal 3 seeks to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”; SDG Goal 6 seeks to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” and focuses on ensuring safe drinking water, minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, and improving wastewater management and the safe reuse of wastewater and SDG Goal 14 seeks to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. The presence of Emerging Contaminants (ECs) in freshwater presents a major challenge to the attainment of these and the other 14 SDG goals, as they pose serious threats to human life and ecosystems.

ECs are contaminants that are found in drinking water or aquatic environments that have not been previously identified as contaminants. The U.S Geological Survey has defined them as ‘any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical that is not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and/or human health effects (Raghav et al., 2013). The group of compounds classified as Emerging Contaminants are very diverse in terms of their toxicity, behavior in the environment, treatment required and monitoring technique used to identify them. They include Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs), Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), steroids, hormones, surfactants and surfactant metabolites, flame retardants, pesticides, industrial additives, nanomaterials and gasoline additives (Inam et al., 2015; Stefanakis & Becker, 2016). The use and production of synthetic organic chemicals for use in various industries, households and agriculture has led to an increase in the occurrence and concentration of these compounds, in wastewater effluents and consequently the environment. Most ECs have only recently been recognized as contaminants, as a result of evidence linking them with various adverse effects observed in the environment, aquatic life and human health. They are usually bioactive, bioaccumulative, with a widespread occurrence and persistence in the environment (Stefanakis & Human, 2015). Globally, it is estimated that approximately 2 million tons of wastewater per day are disposed of within receiving waters, these include various chemicals and industrial, human and agricultural waste products (UNESCO, 2003). The presence of ECs in wastewater is a source of concern, as they are used and released in the environment constantly, contaminating surface water and groundwater resources used for potable water. They pose a threat even at low concentrations and make cause chronic toxicity (Carlsson et al., 2009), endocrine disruption in humans and aquatic life (Bolong et al., 2009) and may result in the development of antibiotic resistance genes (Lubick, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products (PPCP): These are substances used by individuals for various personal health and cosmetic reasons and by the agricultural sector for boosting the growth of animals and for disease control.

Economic Water Scarcity: Water scarcity caused by poor water resources management and a lack of investment in water infrastructure, where the needs of the population are not met.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): These are a collection of global goals that are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Emerging Contaminants: Any synthetic or naturally occurring chemical that is not commonly monitored in the environment but has the potential to enter the environment and cause known or suspected adverse ecological and or human health effects.

Endocrine Disrupting Compound: These are chemicals that can interfere with the endocrine or hormonal systems of humans and animals.

Organochlorine Pesticide: These are chlorinated hydrocarbons which are used for pesticide control.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): These are naturally occurring found in coal and tar and anthropogenic compounds generated as a result of the incomplete combustion of organic material such as coal, wood, garbage, and gasoline.

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs): These are man-made contaminants, which are persistent in the environment. They are found in wastewater generated from the textile, paper and leather industry.

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