A person using a non-stick pan on a gas stovetop

Emerging Contaminants

Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are chemicals that have been recently shown to occur in the environment and identified as a potential risk to the environment or public health. Many of these CECs are in common use and found in everyday products in our homes, farms, and businesses, or used by industry in commercial processes.

These compounds are found in detergents, non-stick pans, stain-resistant and waterproof fabrics, fragrances, prescription and nonprescription drugs, disinfectants, and pesticides. Some of these contaminants are unintended byproducts from the manufacturing process, so it may not be obvious that these contaminants are in the products people are using. With the advent of sensitive new analytical capabilities, scientists are now able to identify extremely low concentrations of these chemicals in the environment.   

The Emerging Contaminants Division utilizes instrumentation across multiple core laboratories at CESE to identify and quantify these trace compounds in a variety of media, including water, soil, sediment, and tissue. Since many of these CECs do not have any established standard EPA and NOAA methods, CESE has developed and validated custom methods to support research and monitoring activities. The CESE laboratory is certified by the Connecticut Department of Public Health for the analysis of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking waters and persistent pollutants in biological tissue.

Recent projects supported by the Emerging Contaminants Division include:

  • Detection and quantitation of Bisphenol compounds, including Bisphenol-A, in the linings of cans used in the food and beverage industry.
  • Determination of concentrations of PFAS in finfish, shellfish, sediment, water and plankton using EPA and in-house developed methods.
  • Detection and quantitation of environmental estrogens in complex matrices, including food, water, soil, and biological tissues (blood, urine, saliva, hair).
  • Quantitation of harmful algal toxins including microcystins, domoic acid, brevetoxin, and saxitoxin, in water, filters, and biological tissues.
  • Development of methods for the detection and identification of microplastics and their associated organic and inorganic contaminants, in tissue, water, and sediment.

Some of our clients and collaborators include:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • KX Technologies
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Connecticut Department of Agriculture

Available Instrumentation



SCIEX X500R Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatograph equipped with a Quadrupole Time-of-Flight High Resolution Mass Spectrometer (QToF-HRMS) To identify and quantify trace level, molecules and metabolites in complex samples including biological and environmental
Waters Acquity Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatograph (UPLC) equipped with:
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometer (MS/MS)
  • Photodiode Array Detector (PDA)
  • Evaporative Light Scattering Detector (ELSD)
  • Fluorescence Detector (FLR)
To identify and quantify trace level concentrations of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other non-traditional organic contaminants in a variety of matrices.
Waters Quattro Micro Gas Chromatograph-Tandem Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS/MS) To identify and quantify trace level concentrations of pesticides, PCBs, PBDEs, PAHs and other organic contaminant in a variety of matrices.
Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrometer, Thermo Fisher-Nicolet iN10, with Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) plate with various on-board IR libraries To acquire and analyze chemical images to and determine the chemical distribution of materials in heterogeneous samples