Chemical pollutants end up in the ocean either directly, via marine activities, or leak into rivers and other waterways on land and are carried out to sea.
There’s a misconception that due to the vastness of the ocean, chemical pollution is diluted to the point where there’s no impact. But that’s simply not the case.
A lot of man-made chemicals, similar to plastics, don’t degrade and will exist for decades in the marine environment. Chemical pollutants can affect entire generations of marine mammals by building up and passing through to their young through breastfeeding. Chemicals affect fertility and disrupt marine wildlife’s energy balance, hormonal and immune systems. This leaves wildlife more vulnerable to infectious diseases and other stressors such as climate change.
Credit: Cooker King via Unsplash
We want PFAS to be banned from all non-essential uses. The EU have already committed to such a restriction and we want the UK to follow suit. Find out more by reading our position statement on PFAS.
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of highly persistent chemicals that don’t break down in the environment - hence the nickname ‘forever chemicals’. These forever chemicals are found in everyday products like non-stick pans, waterproof clothing and cosmetics as they provide both greaseproof and waterproof properties.
PFAS are extremely mobile in the environment and have been found miles from any sources, such as in the Arctic. In the ocean they’ve been shown to negatively affect marine mammals. For instance, increased levels of PFAS in bottlenose dolphins affect immune, blood, kidney and liver function.
Network of Aquatic Chemical Experts
Credit: Hans Reniers via Unsplash
In April 2020, along with colleagues at CHEM Trust, we organised a workshop attended by academics in the field of chemical pollution in both UK freshwater and marine environments.
The goal of the workshop was to determine the state of play of chemical pollution in these environments in the UK. We’re using this information to lobby for a chemical strategy that keeps the health of the environment at its heart.