Our research

Understanding the risk from chemicals is pivotal for ensuring their sustainable use while protecting people, the environment and delivery of ecosystem services.

Our research aims to provide the scientific understanding needed to develop chemical hazard and risk assessment, understand the effects that pollutants have, and develop effective mitigation and restoration strategies. Our work covers a wide range of inorganic and organic chemicals that are released to land, freshwater and the atmosphere, and includes understanding the potential risks associated with engineered nanoparticles, plastics and pharmaceuticals linked to the development of antimicrobial resistance.

World-class science and innovation

  • The Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) quantifies contaminants in sentinel birds of prey. This work helps us understand how and why environmental concentrations of pollutants vary spatially and temporally, and the risks they pose to wildlife.
  • Plastics research to understand the sources, transport and effects of microplastics (plastics <5mm) in freshwater and terrestrial systems. Microplastics in oceans are well studied, but there is less information on their presence in soils, rivers and lakes, where they can be ingested by organisms and lead to the uptake of associated chemicals such as plasticisers.
  • Understanding the extent to which pharmaceuticals, metals, biocides and herbicides contribute to driving antimicrobial resistance in the environment.
  • Providing modelling tools to assess the water quality status across Europe and North Africa with the capability to assess the implications of proposed policy initiatives and climate change.
  • Through a series of UKRI and EU-funded projects we work to establish specialised risk assessment methods for nano-enabled materials and products. We determine how their environmental distribution, concentration, form and toxicity relate to the different physical and chemical properties of nanoparticle-containing materials used in everyday products (e.g. healthcare, electronics and cosmetics).

Scientist working in the chemistry laboratory in Lancaster

Science Groups

Our facilities


Organics sketch of a chicken
Identifying organic substances in the natural environment
Contributing to projects on water, soil and vegetation
Periodic table
Identifying metals in natural and experimental environments
One of the newly fitted camera traps in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
Camera traps have seen a bear in Chernobyl for the first time
Ganges near Haridwar. Photo: Mike Acreman
CEH goes to India to discuss local water resources
A tractor spreading fertiliser. Photo Christopher Elwell/Shutterstock.
25 countries come together to write an 'Ammonia Framework Code'
In the chemistry labs, CEH Lancaster site. Photo - Heather Lowther, CEH
How to access the CEH Centralised Analytical Chemistry Laboratories
Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo - Shutterstock
Coordinating UK input to international hydrological programmes
Bringing together expertise from across the UK's leading public sector agencies
Pathways of pharmaceutical releases to freshwaters.
Pollution's impacts on higher invertebrates and fish populations
High Cloud Photo: Richard Howells CEH
Atmospheric aerosols partially offset global warming