Computational material flow analysis for thousands of chemicals of emerging concern in European waters
Knowledge of exposure to a wide range of chemicals, and the spatio-temporal variability thereof, is urgently needed in the context of protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems. This paper discusses a computational material flow analysis to predict the occurrence of thousands of man-made organic chemicals on a European scale, based on a novel temporally and spatially resolved modelling framework. The goal was to increase understanding of pressures by emerging chemicals and to complement surface water monitoring data. The ambition was to provide a first step towards a “real-life” mixture exposure situation accounting for as many chemicals as possible. Comparison of simulated concentrations and chemical monitoring data for 226 substance/basin combinations showed that the simulated concentrations were accurate on average. For 65% and 90% of substance/basin combinations the error was within one and two orders of magnitude respectively. An analysis of the relative importance of uncertainties revealed that inaccuracies in use volume or use type information contributed most to the error for individual substances. To resolve this, we suggest better registration of use types of industrial chemicals, investigation of presence/absence of industrial chemicals in wastewater and runoff samples and more scientific information exchange.