Environmental Chemistry

Our research examines the occurrence, fate and impact of chemicals in the environment. This includes looking at their sources and subsequent regional and global distribution. We undertake chemical monitoring and develop innovative techniques for observing and interpreting chemical behaviour in the environment.

Our research shapes and supports chemicals policy at the international level. Our work on persistent organic pollutants, chemicals of concern, as well as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and metals is fundamental to improving the way we use, dispose of and manage chemicals and ultimately reduce the risk of contamination and adverse health effects. Our research covers many different aspects, including: resolving chemical fate processes, measuring chemicals in a wide variety of different media, interpreting time trends, novel sampling technologies and modelling chemical fate over a range of spatial and temporal scales.

Facilities and laboratories

Fundamental to our work is an array of laboratory facilities supported by key analytical instrumentation. These instruments include GC-MS, GC-HRMS, LC-MS and ICP-MS. We have dedicated clean-room laboratories to allow the determination of ultra-trace levels of organic pollutants and metals, as well as bespoke equipment to study chemical fate processes and remediation techniques for a range of environmental media. More recently our research has evolved to study pharmaceuticals and personal care products present in wastewater and aquatic systems, this has seen the development of a new analytical laboratory with an array of Liquid chromatography instrumentation including LC-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and automated, online, sample extraction and analysis.

Global studies

Our work is linked to many partners in academia, scientific institutes, national & regional governments as well as industry and the private sector. We are involved in international programmes to monitor and assess chemical pollution in air, water, soil and biota including work in remote environments where certain chemicals may accumulate after being transported from afar. We link with partners in Europe, ChinaAfrica and North America to undertake measurement and chemical fate modelling work and we have close links with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)

Assessing chemical risk

Assessing the risk posed by chemical substances is at the heart of modern legislation but requires continuing science to improve risk assessment procedures. For example, this may range from the development of innovative, low-cost technologies aimed at improving the sampling chemicals in the environment, to the quantitative understanding of chemical sources and subsequent understanding of ‘weathering’ processes. Our research is developing this science and is addressing issues such as how environmental contamination may be affected by climate change (e.g. changing sources and use of chemicals, altered environmental behaviour and changing exposure pathways). We liaise with industry/consultancies on risk assessment and undertake dissemination and agenda-setting activities with international partners.