Every single UK river, lake and stream is subject to chemical pollution.

Water Pattern - Wildfish

The scale of chemical pollution

By 2030, the worldwide market for chemicals of all types is predicted to double.

Manufactured chemicals are everywhere. They are found in drugs, toys, paints, textiles, plastics, carpets, pesticides and fertilisers.

These chemicals leach into the water, air and soil.

Today, more than 350,000 regulated chemicals are in use. Our rivers are currently only checked for 45 of these.

Chemical Pollution - Wildfish
Chemical Pollution - Wildfish
Chemical Pollution - Wildfish

Why chemicals are a problem for wild fish and water

Climate change

During heavier and more frequent rainfall, chemicals are washed into rivers and streams from sewers, roads, and from the land.

Prolonged periods of drier weather also have an impact. Less rainfall reduces the water available for dilution in rivers and lakes and the concentration of chemicals in the water increases, with increased toxicity for wildlife.

Harm to river life

Chemicals can and do damage the environment irreversibly. Exposure to chemicals can cause death in freshwater species, or have a sub-lethal impacts by disrupting physiological pathways, reproduction and natural behaviours.

Many of the risks associated with chemical pollution are not yet known or fully understood.  

What is needed to protect wild fish and water from chemical pollution?

The Government and key regulators needs to:

1. Prioritise prevention and precaution when licensing chemicals of all types (including industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, veterinary medicines, pesticides, biocides and human medicines) and when considering ‘safer’ substitution for known hazardous chemicals.

2. Commit to a phasing-out of the most hazardous chemicals from all uses. Using hazardous chemicals for non-essential uses should be not be permitted.

3. Address the ‘cocktail effect’, the combined exposure of wildlife to many different chemicals in the environment, often involving low-level, chronic exposure, having overall toxic effects that are not properly considered in current licensing procedures.

4. Establish an effective and properly-funded monitoring and ‘alert’ system to detect hazardous chemicals in the environment.

5. Ensure the effective regulation of chemicals, based a precautionary approach to the licensing of chemicals, the assessment of their ecological impact, both individually and in combination with other chemicals, across all types of chemicals (industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, veterinary medicines, pesticides, biocides and human medicines).


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