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.
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 impacts on water species including amphibians, fish, insects, nitrogen-fixing bacteria and algae.
The adverse effects on these creatures included stunted growth, reduced cell function and lower survival rates. Some campaigners also fear they may have negative effects on human health but this has not been proved.