The Agricultural Research Council is conducting a study for the Water Research Commission (Project 2021/2022-00256) in collaboration with Tshwane University of Technology, North-West University and University of South Africa to establish a portal consisting of emerging aquatic pollutants viz. the Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) Knowledge Hub.

What are Contaminants of Emerging Concern?

Contaminants of Emerging Concern are pollutants that have previously been at levels below detection limits, which are now being detected by water professionals in our water bodies. These can include nanomaterials, flame-retardants, microplastics, agricultural waste, microbial contaminants, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, which may cause ecological and human health impacts.

How do Contaminants of Emerging Concern end up in our water bodies?

The production and use of consumer products are the major contributing factor to pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP) in our water bodies and are either not removed or chemically transformed throughout waste water treatment processes. If you consider your own morning rou ne and the contaminant exposure we are faced with daily (Figure 2), you are able to predict the magnitude of CEC release into our ecosystems.

​Why do we need to establish a database of CECs?

The continued unregulated use of products containing CECs could lead to several ecological risks. The effects of these contaminants on the environment is becoming increasingly important. Therefore, in order to address this, more research needs to focus on collating currently available outcomes and these results need to be made available to regulators in order to develop environmental laws in a proactive manner. The database will also guide us in pre-empting any aquatic catastrophe relating to CECs by identifying the problem and taking relevant, informed steps to prevent it from escalating beyond control. In so doing we can collectively preserve and improve the quality of our precious, limited resource....fresh water.

Project Team:


  • Dr Ashira Roopnarain (Project Leader) – ARC

  • Dr Tarryn Botha (Principal Investigator) – UNISA;

  • Prof Rasheed Adeleke - NWU

  • Prof Ntebogeng Mokgalaka - TUT

  • Dr Maryam Bello-Akinosho - ARC

  • Dr Busiswa Ndaba – ARC

  • Dr Emomotimi Bamuza-Pemu - OptimalEnviro Consulting

  • Dr Michael van der Laan - ARC

  • Ms Phedisho Mphahlele – TUT/ARC

  • Ms Fanelesibonge Vilakazi – NWU/ARC

Information Technology

  • Mr Zibusiso Ncube – ARC

  • Mr Gert De Nysschen - ARC

  • Mr Akani Mushwana - ARC

Public relations

  • Ms Adri Laas - ARC
Figure 2: Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) we use in our daily routine which contain Contaminants of Emerging Concern.

Information Sheet on Agricultural Contaminants.pdf
Information Sheet on Heavy Metal Contaminants.pdf
Information Sheet on Microbial Contaminants.pdf
Information Sheet on Microplastic Contaminants.pdf
Information Sheet on Nanomaterial Contaminants.pdf
Information Sheet on Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.pdf