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Rapidly rising levels of TFA ‘forever chemical’ alarm experts

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Rapidly rising levels of TFA, a class of “forever chemical” thought to damage fertility and child development, are being found in drinking water, blood and rain, causing alarm among experts.

Studies from across the world are reporting sharp rises in TFA. A major source is F-gases, which were brought in to replace ozone-depleting CFCs in refrigeration, air conditioning, aerosol sprays and heat pumps. Pesticides, dyes and pharmaceuticals can also be sources.

“Everywhere you look it’s increasing. There’s no study where the concentration of TFA hasn’t increased,” said David Behringer, an environmental consultant who has studied TFA in rain for the German government.

‘Dirty secret’: insiders say UK water firms knowingly break sewage laws

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Whistleblowers say UK water companies are knowingly failing to treat legally required amounts of sewage, and that some treatment works are manipulating wastewater systems to divert raw sewage away from the works and into rivers and seas.

It is well known that water companies are dumping large volumes of raw sewage into rivers and seas from storm overflows but an investigation by the Guardian and Watershed Investigations reveals that the industry’s “dirty secret” is bigger, broader and deeply systemic.

By law, every wastewater treatment works must treat a minimum amount of sewage as stipulated in their environmental permits. Four whistleblowers have told Watershed that a large proportion regularly fail to do so and are not reporting it to the environmental regulator.

PFAS investigation now a scientific paper

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The work of the Forever Pollution Project, of which Watershed is a part, has been published in the scientific journal, Environmental Science and Technology. It sets out the methodology used to map PFAS contamination in Europe and the lessons learned from this pioneering expert-reviewed journalism project.

With thanks to Stephane Horel, Alissa Cordner, Phil Brown, Ian Cousins, Martin Scheringer, Derrick Salvatore, Kimberly Garrett, Gretta Goldenman, Luc Martinon, Catharina Felke, Gary Dagorn, Raphaelle Aubert, Nadja Tausche, Daniel Drepper, Gianluca Liva, Sarah Pilz, Ana Tudela Flores, Antonio Delgado, Emmanuel Morimont, Romane Bonneme.

Watershed publishes three new podcast episodes

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Why hundreds of toxic road runoff outfalls are polluting England’s rivers

A toxic cocktail of damaging chemicals created by road pollution is flowing into England’s rivers and no regulator is monitoring the scale of its impact on wildlife or public health. In this special episode – a collaboration with the Planet Possible podcast – Rachel Salvidge, Leana Hosea and Planet Possible host Niki Roach dig into the lesser known problem of river pollution from roads, speaking to the Environment Agency’s director of water Helen Wakeham, National Highways’ director of environmental sustainability Stephen Elderkin, and Stormwater Shepherds’ director of operations Jo Bradley.

Gaza’s water crisis

The people of Gaza are on the frontline of a water crisis. Since Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing 1200 Israelis and taking hostages, Gaza has been under unprecedented bombardment, killing more than 28,000 Palestininans, many of them children. Most of the population are displaced and living in unsanitary conditions, with soaring rates of infectious diseases linked to polluted water and lack of sanitation. Children in Gaza have barely a drop to drink, according to UNICEF.

Leana and Rachel examine the historic and current water crisis, speaking with:

Dr Shaddad Attili, lead Palestinian negotiator for water at the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Professor Alon Tal of Tel Aviv University, an environmentalist and water management expert, who has founded several Israeli environmental organisations and was recently a Member of the Knesset with the Blue and White centrist zionist coalition.

Professor William Schabas of Middlesex University, an international expert on human rights, international criminal law and genocide and was the head of a UN Committee investigating the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.

Professor Mark Zeitoun of the Geneva Water Hub, a policy institute which focuses on hydro-diplomacy to prevent and resolve water-related conflicts.

Toxic: Britain’s forever polluted rivers and seas

In this special episode, Leana and Rachel discuss their new film in which they travel the country testing for toxic PFAS ‘forever chemical’ pollution at hotspots around Britain. Find out which river is carrying one of the highest loads of PFAS in the world and how a PFAS factory is discharging a category 1 carcinogen into protected waters.

Available on AppleSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Cancer-causing PCB chemicals still being produced despite 40-year-old ban

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Industry could be producing more cancer-causing PCB chemicals today than at any other point in history, despite their production having been banned more than 40 years ago. Research seen by the Guardian and Watershed Investigations shows that PCBs are being produced as byproducts in chemical reactions, which means small proportions of them are present in many chemicals used today.

Abandoned pipelines could release poisons into North Sea

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Decaying oil and gas pipelines left to fall apart in the North Sea could release large volumes of poisons such as mercury, radioactive lead and polonium-210, notorious for its part in the poisoning of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko, scientists told Watershed Investigations.

Mersey suffers from major PFAS pollution

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Watershed’s article in The Times reports that cancer-causing chemical loads flowing through the River Mersey catchment are among the largest recorded in the world and most of it is coming from sewage works. 

Compared with a number of river basins across the world, only the Tokyo basin carries more PFOA per square kilometre of land. For PFOS, the Mersey catchment is the third worst, after the Tokyo basin and Cape Fear in the US. The discovery was made by hydrologist Dr Patrick Byrne from Liverpool John Moores University, who monitored the Mersey for a year and calculated the forever chemical load travelling through the catchment.  

Watershed releases new documentary ‘TOXIC’

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Watershed has worked with the ENDS Report to produce a new film ‘TOXIC: Britain’s forever poisoned rivers and seas’. The film can be viewed at and reveals PFAS pollution hotspots across England, particularly in the Mersey and Wyre. Featuring Feargal Sharkey, Dame Natalie Bennett, Clare Cavers, Dr Patrick Byrne, Dr Tom Miller and Lizzie Carr, it tells the worrying story of widespread carcinogen contamination.


Why Britain is running out of sea

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For the Sunday Times, Watershed mapped the demands on the seabed around Britain from energy companies to industrial fishing to conservation, highlighting the need for each of the interests to work together to create a win-win for climate, wildlife and people.

‘Forever chemical’ in English tap water samples carcinogenic, WHO rules

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PFAS found in hundreds of drinking water samples across England has been categorised as carcinogenic by the  World Health Organisation. The move will increase pressure on the UK government to take action on “forever chemicals”.

PFOA has been linked to cancer for some time but a growing body of evidence means it has now been upgraded to “category one”, which means it is “carcinogenic to humans”, according to the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

A recent report from the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) shows that approximately 12,000 samples taken from drinking water sources contain at least one PFAS of some kind.


Watershed - Investigative Journalism