Toxic chemicals present in UK drinking water


The UK’s safe level for tap water for PFAS chemicals is too high, claimed a recent report by the BBC. The BBC took 45 tap water samples and had them analysed in a laboratory. The analysis found that almost half of the samples contained PFAS chemicals and 10 percent of the samples had readings that exceeded 10 nanograms per litre.

None exceeded the UK level of 100ng/l though – a limit that compared to European protection standards is remarkably high and perhaps challenges the myths of better UK chemical regulations post Brexit. Half of all the UK samples exceeded the European Food Standards Agency limit of 2.2ng/l.

Guidelines from the UK Drinking Water Inspectorate state drinking water must contain PFAS chemicals at no more than 100 nanograms per litre (ng/l). Though they are considering revising this down to 70ng/l.

To emphasise this vital point, the European standard for this health concern is The UK standard is 100ng/l.

Chemicals in our water supply

The BBC study follows on the recent evidence of high levels of PFAS chemicals found in Cambridgeshire water supply in February this year. Over 1,000 people were not informed that they had been exposed to levels of PFOS that were four times the regulatory limit, or 400ng/l. When set against the European limit of 2.2ng/l, this Cambridge reading is remarkable.

To add to the residents’ anger at this lack of information, it was then revealed that Cambridge City Council had known about this supply of excessive PFOS pollution almost a week before the customers had. Cambridge Water is adamant that the polluted water did not reach customers’ taps, though an investigation is ongoing.

What about here in Yorkshire? Like most water companies, Yorkshire Water provides customers with an opportunity to check what is in their water supply. But what is remarkably conspicuous by its absence, is the lack of reference to PFAS chemicals. Yorkshire Water refer to the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2016, which do not specify PFAS at all. As there is no regulatory requirement to test for PFAS chemicals, the water company relies on the Environment Agency to do this for them.

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Yorkshire Bylines, 22-03-22