The population growth and the associated accelerating demands for energy and natural resources have produced significant pressure and growing risks to the environment. Beside the traditional environmental pollution, our environment is facing new threats caused by a fast-growing group of persistent, emerging and organic pollutants (PEOPs). They mainly include but not limited to petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides, disinfection by-products (DBPs), fire retardants, chemical surfactants, pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), aquaculture therapeutants, engineered nanomaterial, micro-plastics, and metals. They are wither new or recently recognized contamination phenomena caused by traditional contaminants (e.g., co-contamination of heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons, oil spills in ice-infested waters, and micro-plastics) or man-made products which are recently developed or whose environmental impacts have not been well studied (e.g., engineered nanomaterial and PPCPs). A large number of these pollutants are recalcitrant to degradation, toxic or carcinogenic, and bio-accumulative, and currently not included in regulatory guidelines and routine monitoring programs. The understanding of their fate, behavior and effects in the environment and the development of prevention, control and remediation technologies are lacking but becoming increasingly crucial for protecting community health and ecosystems, making evidence-based policies and decisions, and supporting the sustainable development of natural resources.
In light of these facts, a new pan-Canadian/global research and training Network on the Persistent, Emerging, and Organic Pollution in the Environment (PEOPLE)has been established. Based on the concept developed in 2016 by Dr. Bing Chen (Professor and Director of the Northern Region Persistent Organic Pollution Control (NRPOP) Laboratory), the initiative was made by the researchers and partners from over 30 institutions and partnering organizations in Canada, USA, China, France, Norway, and Ireland. On October 16-17, 2017, the network was officially launched during its first event, PEOPLE 2017, in St. John’s, Canada. PEOPLE is to promote scientific research, engineering and social-economic development, cross-disciplinary education and training, community engagement and knowledge transfer in order to help address the growing, emerging problems caused by PEOPs, leading to long-term benefits to Canadian and global communities and environments. Special attention and efforts will be made to address environmental challenges in the cold and marine environments. As the first of its kind in North America, PEOPLE bridges natural and social sciences, facilitates collaborative R&D and training, and advances science and technology through integrated approaches and synergetic efforts by the following:
Collaborate within and beyond PEOPLE at regional, national and international scales focusing on innovative research and partnerships with a goal to address the urgent R&D needs of government, industry and communities.
Reach out to collaborators with different expertise and experience to enhance its diversity and capacity and to improve better collaboration on scientific understanding the PEOPs, particularly in the cold and marine environments.
Provide a unique platform and mechanism to gather researchers and form integrated knowledge and technology inventory and build an open, efficient channel to connect the researchers with the end users from private and public sectors as well as the communities.
Seek and secure funding support to the operation and activities of PEOPLE, the collaborative and innovative research by PEOPLE’s researchers and partners, and the development and the promotion technologies transfer opportunities.
Consider reflecting more social science and health science in future research and training efforts, and particularly taking the health and social-economic needs of communities into account.
Educate and train the highly qualified personnel (HQP), professionals from industry and governments, and communities particularly from remote and indigenous groups.