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NORMAN Prioritisation

NORMAN Prioritisation framework for emerging substances

The list of chemical compounds that are frequently discussed in the literature as “emerging substances” is ever growing. The ‘2011 NORMAN list’ contains over 700 emerging substances, selected by NORMAN experts, drawing on expert judgment and the scientific literature.

Existing knowledge gaps (e.g. insufficient information on the effects of a substance, inadequate performance of the analytical method for quantifying its level of occurrence in the environment) do not allow an emerging substance to be correctly evaluated and may lead to its being discarded or overlooked if conventional prioritisation methodologies are applied.

To this purpose the NORMAN Working Group on “Prioritisation of emerging substances” was set up in 2010 to develop a prioritisation scheme designed for emerging substances and associated knowledge gaps.

Unlike other prioritisation methods, which aim simply to rank all candidate substances against one single prioritisation objective, the NORMAN method combines the ranking process with a prior allocation of the substances into action categories, which allows substances to be managed on the basis of the level of available information, thereby avoiding the exclusion of substances for which there are limited data.

The overall prioritisation procedure is carried out in two successive stages. In the first stage, the NORMAN prioritisation methodology uses a decision tree that classifies chemicals into six categories, based on identified (“categories” of) knowledge gaps and actions to be taken by the research community and public authorities to fill them. The second stage entails the prioritisation of the substances within each (action) category, on the basis of the criteria / indicators identified for each category.

The overall process is an iterative process that involves a periodic revision of the priority substances in each category whenever e.g. new information / more reliable data are generated or feedback from applied reduction measures is available.

The NORMAN scheme is addressed to water managers and competent authorities that are aiming to identify priority substances at national, river basin and European level. It provides decision-makers with a common framework for the creation and updating of the lists of chemical substances for which actions to reduce, monitor or gather scientific or technical data are to be undertaken as a matter of priority. This document will be updated according to the latest scientific findings whenever those are available.