According to a new report from the Royal Society of Chemistry, ingredients from beauty products and other everyday household items such as medicines are contaminating UK water supplies even after being processed at water treatment plants.

Launching the report on Monday, the organisation called for more research into the problem and for Government and the industry to place greater emphasis on the future quality of water to protect human and environmental health.

A team of nearly 30 scientists found that contaminants are entering the water system through excretion of medicines and by-products and the use of personal health care products – releasing chemicals that UK water treatment waste works are not designed to remove.

The publication of the report is the first step in a campaign to make water supplies more sustainable in the face of massive population growth, climate change and man-made pollution.

Dr Jeff Hardy, environment and energy manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “If we have a complete understanding of the environmental fate of contaminants then it is possible to design chemicals and products that are highly effective in their use, and at end of life, are reusable, recyclable or degrade quickly in the environment with minimal risk to human and environmental health.”

He added: “While many people might not be interested in what happens to their nice smelling shower gel after it has disappeared down the drain, chemists and employees of the water industry most certainly are.

“The chemical sciences will play a vital role in progressing us towards sustainable water management.”

The report contained 57 recommendations for Government, the water industry and environmental bodies.

This includes making research into water contaminants a priority, promoting the development of new disinfection processes, and developing better technology to detect contaminants.

Kate Martin

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