The extent of anthropogenic chemical contamination in European riverine systems has been gauged through analysis of 445 samples collected during 2016 to 2029 from 22 watercourses. The results point to the presence of too many chemicals in these waterways: 445 samples were tainted by 504 of 610 chemicals of environmental interest.

As reported in Environment International, researchers detected 229 pesticides and biocides and 175 pharmaceutical chemicals in addition to surfactants, plastic and rubber additives, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and corrosion inhibitors. Up to 50 chemical substances were identified in 40% of the samples and 51 to 100 chemicals were fingerprinted in another 41%. The greatest array of contaminants — 241 chemicals — was found in a sample collected from the Danube River.

The threats posed by these chemical pollutants to aquatic biota was assessed by calculating chemical footprints, which link the concentration of a chemical at a site to expected biological effects. Safe limit values for aquatic organisms were exceeded in 74% of the samples tested. The highest risk was determined for crustaceans, which have little chance of survival at 15% of the sites studied.

Researchers from Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany), Goethe University (Germany), Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ (Germany) and Seoul National University (South Korea) advocate for expanded monitoring of chemicals in water systems and in order to document more extensive measurement data.

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