Shampoo damaging the environment

According to a report from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), Britain's environment is under threat from shampoo.

The new report warns shampoos, shower gels and other cosmetic products along with a burgeoning number of other chemicals, are finding their way into the environment and are posing a risk to sea life, plants as well as people's health.

The substances found include parabens, which have been linked to a rise in breast cancer and are used as a preservative in a range of cosmetic products.

The report by 29 scientists, 'Sustainable Water: Chemical Science Priorities', is calling for urgent research to determine the scale of the threat.

The report says wastewater treatment works are unable to prevent chemicals used in many household products escaping into the environment and it raises concern over the growing number of chemicals that are now appearing.

The report says their effects on the environment, including human health, are unclear and need to be investigated.

Dr. Jeff Hardy, the RSC's environment and energy manager, says though most people are not interested to what happens to their shower gel after it has disappeared down the drain, chemists and employees of the water industry are.

Dr. Hardy says even modern treatment works cannot remove all the substances, and traces of medicines such as anti-depressants, painkillers and anti-cancer drugs have also been found in the drinking water supply.

The report calls for a better understanding of the exposure of water systems to chemical contaminants in order to control the risks of the contamination to the environment and human health.

One of the chemicals causing environmentalists concern is triclosan which is in washing-up liquids, plastic kitchen utensils, toothpastes, deodorants and soaps.

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent and an estimated 90 tonnes of the it goes into domestic products every year.

Triclosan is known to build up in the environment and is toxic to aquatic life; it has been found in the bodies of fish and in human breast milk.

Phthalates, a family of some 120 industrial chemicals used in shampoos, moisturisers and perfumes, are also a worry and they have been linked to reproductive problems in men and in wildlife, and can build up in animals' bodies.

The RSC says providing sufficient water at an appropriate standard to satisfy domestic, industrial, agricultural and environmental needs is a global challenge and scientists are working against a background of soaring population growth, leading to increases in levels of man-made pollution.

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