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Chemical cocktails harmful to wildlife found in 81% of English rivers and lakes

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Chemical cocktails that are harmful to wildlife have been found in 81% of river and lake sites tested in England, a study has found.Wildlife organisations are calling on the government for more rigorous testing of waterways for chemical cocktails, and new legal protections against dangerous mixtures, including requiring assessments of potential hazardous chemical mixture impacts before any new chemical is allowed on the market.Experts have said while the government monitors and regulates individual levels of chemicals, the cocktail effect of mixtures of substances is ignored.

The government is due to publish a new chemicals strategy this year that is expected to contain a system for dealing with long-lasting “forever chemicals”, but campaigners are also asking ministers to crack down on harmful mixtures.Of 1,006 river and lake sites with data, 814 were found to have these toxic mixtures, according to analysis of data collected by the government’s Environment Agency.The data analysis, by Wildlife and Countryside Link and the Rivers Trust, found that more than half (54%) of the sites contained three or more of the five harmful chemical cocktails investigated, and up to 101 chemicals were identified in river samples.The rivers with the highest numbers of chemicals included the Mersey, Stour, Colne, Thames, Trent, Yare, Irwell, Medway, Humber and Avon.Six chemicals in five different mixtures were found across the sites, which included four toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals”: PFOS, PFOA, PFBS and PFHxS.

The pesticide 2,4-D and the commonly used painkiller ibuprofen were also identified.In laboratory conditions, these chemicals mixed together have been found to have disastrous

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