Tougher regulation urged to curb toxic chemicals

Tougher regulation urged to curb toxic chemicals

The call comes after hair and blood analysis of a group of 17 politicians and environmental leaders shows they all tested positive for PFAS or “forever chemicals”.

The “snapshot” analysis also revealed the presence of other harmful chemicals, including endocrine disruptors or “everywhere chemicals”, and heavy metals such as chromium and mercury.

Campaigners say ineffective regulation in the UK risks making chemical pollution “a hidden time bomb” for the environment and public health.

They warn regulation has not kept pace with the “explosion” in chemical products in everyday life, and the UK is falling behind on protections against toxic chemicals since leaving the EU.

The Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) coalition of environmental and nature groups, which led the research, is calling for bans on PFAS and endocrine disruptors for all but essential uses.

It is also calling for an end to delays on policies surrounding chemicals, cost-effective regulation, and establishing better monitoring systems to assess impacts on rivers, seas and soils.

Toxic chemicals should be regulated in groups, and the potential for dangerous chemical cocktail impacts should be assessed before any new one is allowed on the market, it argues.

Common

The chemicals are found in common consumer goods from plastic food packaging to waterproof clothing, toys, toiletries and cosmetics, and find their way into the environment, into drinking water and food – from fruit and fish.

They are harmful to people and wildlife, environmentalists warn, with the chemicals linked to human impacts from increased cancer risk to reduced fertility, disruptions to hormones and immune systems, and developmental issues.

No river in England is classified as being in good health, due to the presence of toxic chemicals, with chemical cocktails found in more than 1,600 UK river and groundwater sites.

Wildlife including birds of prey, otters, dolphins and insects are being harmed by the pollutants, a report from WCL warned.

The research found some chemicals were at very high levels in a number of samples.

Participants who gave samples included former Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Alex Sobel and Philip Dunne, former chairman of the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee.

Also taking part in the tests were environmentalist Ben Goldsmith, businessman and food campaigner Henry Dimbleby, RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight and Wildlife Trusts chief executive Craig Bennett.

Above normal

Up to seven of the 13 PFAS – substances that are found in products ranging from non-stick frying pans to toilet roll – that were tested for were found in participants’ blood, while volumes of the chemicals that could potentially present an increased health risk were detected in half the samples.

Chromium, a heavy metal which can come from industrial processes and fossil fuel combustion, was found at particularly high levels – above international averages in all the hair samples tested, and in one case 13 times that level. Mercury levels were also higher than international averages.

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