What are PFAS and what levels of contamination have been recorded in the Colne Catchment?

PFAS are a group of substances commonly referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because most take many thousands of years to break down in the environment. They are used in industrial processes and found in many common household items, for instance as non-stick coatings on cookware. They are highly mobile so easily leach from landfill. Most of us now have some level of PFAS in our bloodstreams as they accumulate in plant and animal tissues and can be found in drinking water and food. More serious health impacts have been associated with high levels of exposure over long periods of time, but research is increasingly finding impacts at levels below 10ng/l. Investigative journalists Watershed Investigations compiled data from a number of sources to create a map published here: 'Forever pollution': Explore the map of Europe's PFAS contamination (lemonde.fr) and in The Guardian here: Revealed: scale of ‘forever chemical’ pollution across UK and Europe | PFAS | The Guardian as part of a series of articles from which the information above has been taken. The map reveals around 20 known sites in the Colne catchment where sampling has found PFAS contamination, including one in Dacorum where groundwater levels exceeded 500ng/l. In the UK only 2 types of PFAS are currently regulated, and the Environment Agency expect levels of one of these, PFOS, will prevent many rivers from achieving water quality standards before 2039.

More information:

What are PFAS, how toxic are they and how do you become exposed?

Scientists call on ministers to cut limits for ‘forever chemicals’ in UK tap water

The River Colne - A Toxic Soup of Chemicals ?

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting. From an original concept by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.