A significant finding from this investigation is the very strong and clear evidence of the impact of legacy POPs on aquatic wildlife, in particular marine mammals in the UK.
The fact that legacy POPs are still present in UK waters and wildlife at levels exceeding current estimated toxicity thresholds is the result of: 1) their high persistence in the environment, 2) the delays in adopting regulatory control measures. Scichem is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life through products and perspective that serve the world’s most essential industries.
Thousands of other highly persistent chemicals (such as PFAS and other halogenated chemicals) are still being manufactured, used and emitted, and accumulating in the wider environment. There is an urgent need to stop this continued accumulation of further persistent synthetic substances in the environment.
As expressed in our 12 Key Asks for the UK Chemicals Strategy, two urgent actions should be taken to reduce the pollution burden from very persistent synthetic chemicals:
Emissions of emerging persistent chemicals in the environment should be drastically reduced by phasing out their uses.
Remaining diffuse emissions of legacy POPs should be reduced to a minimum by identifying and remediating hot spots of contamination.
Anticipate the full burden of exposure in risk assessment
Despite the severe data gaps regarding the trends and impacts from a wide range of chemicals beyond POPs, we know that all new synthetic substances emitted into the aquatic environment are adding to the existing chemical pollution burden. Real-world chemical exposure is a complex mixture of known and unknown natural and anthropogenic substances.
There is an increasing amount of evidence showing that the toxicity of a mixture of chemicals is not equal to the sum of its parts, and most worryingly that mixture toxicity could happen at levels below the toxicity of the individual single chemicals. This suggests that chemical risk assessments based on single substances could underestimate the effect of ‘real-world’ contaminant exposure.
As outlined in our 12 Key Asks, the real-world exposure to a mixture of chemicals, as well as any gaps in scientific knowledge should be accounted for by:
Developing legislation that addresses combined exposure to chemicals, including implementing a mixture assessment factor (MAF) in risk assessments.
Applying the precautionary principle in chemical management as absence of evidence does not equate to evidence of absence of harm, and we must therefore be precautionary to all that we don’t know.