To minimize the adverse impacts from anthropogenic emerging contaminants on public health and the environment.
Advancing the science of emerging contaminants through multi-disciplinary research that applies state-of-the-art analytical technologies with computional data analytics to increase our understanding of the occurrence, fate, exposure, risk, hazards and remediation strategies of legacy and emerging contaminants.
Contamination of the environment with anthropogenically produced chemicals is one of the most serious environmental issues facing contemporary society. While synthetic chemicals are indeed essential for modern society some can be particularly problematic. The worst of these pollutants:
- biomagnify through the food chain, accumulating in humans and wildlife;
- cause negative health impacts including cancer, reproductive health problems, impaired immune function and neurodevelopmental impairment;
- are detected frequently in all environmental compartments (air, water, soil, biota) across the globe, including ‘pristine’ locations far from known point sources, where they can persist for decades or even longer;
- can be difficult to remediate or remove by natural processes from environmental matrices due to a combination of unique chemical properties and high cost of treatment.
There are over 147 million unique chemical compounds registered in the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) database and over 147,000 of these are routinely used for industrial applications. All are potential environmental contaminants and for many new recently discovered emerging contaminants, we have no information on their persistence, environmental behaviour and/or toxicology. Current global approaches to chemical management involve the constant introduction of new chemicals with little thought for their potential impact on society and the environment. In fact, we are now engaged in an experiment involving all of humanity, where we are exposed to a mixture of thousands of chemicals in our daily life.
The Australian Laboratory for Emerging Contaminants (ALEC) is a research partnership of dedicated environmental science professionals committed to understanding emerging contaminants in contemporary society. ALEC facilitates multi-disciplinary research, sets the agenda for emerging contaminants and aims to provide solutions to some of the most challenging problems associated with chemical exposure, risk and impact. The scale of the issue requires multidisciplinary collaborations of environmental scientists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, data scientists and policy-makers to work together to better understand the true impact of emerging contaminants on public health and the environment.