May 3, 2021
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
The National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH/NIEHS), on behalf of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), requests input from all interested parties on research needed to identify, analyze, monitor, and mitigate drinking water contaminants of emerging concern (DW CECs). Comments provided through this Request for Information (RFI) will inform the development of a National Emerging Contaminant Research Initiative (NECRI). The NECRI will be the precursor to Federal coordination of DW CEC research; and, in compliance with the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), agencies will publish external grant solicitations that align with the goals of the NECRI.
DW CEC are newly identified or re-emerging manufactured or naturally occurring physical, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials that may cause adverse effects to human health or the environment and do not currently have a national primary drinking water regulation. Through this RFI, NIH/NIEHS seeks input from non-governmental entities (e.g., industry, academia, civil society), State and local governments, and other institutions with scientific and material interest in DW CEC research. Comments provided in response to this RFI will inform the development of a National Emerging Contaminant Research Initiative (NECRI) for protection of U.S. drinking water quality. Responses may also be used to address requests from the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to identify research questions and priorities in the area of sustainable chemistry. The initiative will build on the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) cross-agency Plan for Addressing Critical Research Gaps Related to Emerging Contaminants in Drinking Water published in 2018. The NECRI will be the precursor to Federal coordination of DW CEC research; and, in compliance with the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2020, Title LXXIII, Subtitle D, Sections 7341 and 7342 , agencies will “issue a solicitation for research proposals consistent with the Federal research strategy and that agency’s mission.”
Contaminants of emerging concern may be present in drinking water and in some cases have been shown to cause adverse effects on human health. The 2020 NDAA instructed OSTP to establish the NECRI to improve the “identification, analysis, monitoring, and treatment methods of contaminants of emerging concern” and subsequently develop “any necessary program, policy, or budget” to further DW CEC research. The 2020 NDAA also directs the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish an Interagency Working Group on Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC IWG) to facilitate coordination of Federal research on CEC. OSTP collaborated with the CEC IWG to identify approaches, tools, and methods to accelerate DW CEC research, and metrics and indicators to assess progress in reaching the goals of the NECRI.
This RFI requests feedback on two sections: the need for coordination of efforts and the scientific focus of a DW CEC effort. Respondents are free to address one or both of the sections listed below and respond to as many items in each section as they choose, while remaining within the 10-page limit, exclusive of attachments.
Section 1 – Feedback on Improving and Coordinating DW CEC Efforts: This RFI requests feedback on methods to focus and coordinate DW CEC research efforts. Please consider how U.S. Government and external stakeholder action could contribute to DW CEC research, take advantage of emerging science and technology opportunities, measure outcomes, and develop a DW CEC research initiative with the goal to provide safe drinking water for the American people. Please comment on:
Section 2 – Feedback on DW CEC Research Areas: This RFI requests feedback on needs for broad areas of DW CEC research (detailed below) and research needed for shaping the NECRI.
DW CEC Research Areas:
Below are descriptions of four areas of DW CEC research identified by the CEC IWG. When submitting your feedback, please indicate which DW CEC research area(s) you are responding to.
Research Area 1: Exposure
Exposure to DW CECs can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or dermal routes. Exposure-related research includes contaminant identification and monitoring from source-to-tap and informs downstream efforts to understand the biological effects of CEC exposures, characterize their risk, and develop mitigation tools. Monitoring can be performed routinely to assess water composition, during acute exposure events, or to estimate the effect of CEC mitigation efforts. Exposure science includes efforts to estimate the type and concentration of contaminants through a range of activities from targeted analysis of specific CEC, non-targeted analysis for the discovery of unknown CEC, and modeling activities. Please include thoughts on identification and measurement tools, such as sensors, to conduct analyses.
Research Area 2: Human Health and Environmental Effects
Emerging contaminants may cause adverse effects on human health and the environment. Biological effects research encompasses the identification and characterization of these adverse effects, including factors that influence susceptibility to disease or disfunction. Research tools may include in-silico and receptor-based approaches, predictive modeling, new toxicological assessments, and data analytics strategies. In the context of this research initiative, environmental effects research considers indicators of adverse human health effects.
Research Area 3: Risk Characterization to Inform Risk Mitigation
Risk characterization synthesizes available information and communicates uncertainty about exposure, biological effects, and other relevant considerations to inform risk mitigation actions. Risk mitigation actions include research into preventative approaches such as source reduction. Sustainable chemistry efforts may also fall into risk mitigation actions. In addition, treatments, technological development and application, and other interventions may also be considered to reduce or otherwise mitigate risk for individual, mixtures, or classes of CEC.
Research Area 4: Risk Communication
Risk communication relays information to relevant groups about risks to human health and actions that could address those risks. The scope of relevant groups includes those affected by exposures, the general public, decision makers, scientists, industry, and other technical experts. Risk communication research includes techniques and media formats used to inform stakeholder groups and studies on the psychosocial aspects of risks, such as general perceptions of risk, the adoption of risk reduction behaviors, and perceptions framed by scientific controversy or misinformation.
The following statements are provided to obtain feedback to fill existing gaps in DW CEC knowledge and practice in these research areas. Please comment on:
How to Submit a Response
This RFI is for informational and planning purposes only and is not a solicitation for applications or an obligation on the part of the Government to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that the Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for use of that information.