Research at the University of Hull has found that everyday products, including toothpaste, soap and the contraceptive pill, are posing a threat to wildlife in many of Britain’s inland waterways.
Chemicals found in personal care products and pharmaceuticals, such as the pill and the painkiller diclofenac, are accumulating in rivers and canals from both domestic and industrial waste.
Known as ‘watch list chemicals’, they have so-called ‘gender bender’ effects on some wildlife which begin to show both male and female characteristics, affecting reproduction.
Watch list chemicals have been identified by the EU as potentially toxic, or shown to alter the hormone balance in organisms living in both the sediment and the waters above.
The University of Hull is leading a €4.4-million Europe-wide project which aims to discover more about the impact and presence of these chemicals.
It will also seek to offer solutions by improving the removal of the chemicals from waste water treatment plants, before they enter the waterways.
The project will also raise awareness among the public in the hope they will make more informed choices about their future purchases.