The first conference of UKEMS was held at the University of Manchester in April 1977 and was organised by Diana Anderson. It was officially described as the 1st Annual Meeting of the UK Section of the European Environmental Mutagenesis Society (EEMS). Today UKEMS is a member society of the EEMS and the International Association of Environmental Mutagen Societies (IAEMS).

There were 71 recorded delegates at the Manchester meeting, which comprised the familiar combination of invited talks (from C. Auerbach, P. Perry, M. Lyon, J.M. Parry and A. Lehmann), contributed papers and discussion sessions on assays for mutagens (led by S. Venitt, M. Fox and D. Scott). At that meeting the Society elected its first officers and formulated its plans for future activities. The society has continued to hold its annual meeting at universities in the UK since 1977, on some occasions playing host to the annual meeting of EEMS or arranging the meeting as a satellite to the 4-yearly International Conference on Environmental Mutagens (ICEM) when the latter was held in France in 1977.

The society recognises outstanding service to environmental mutagenesis through the conferment of the title of UKEMS Fellow. To date, 22 scientists who have been honoured by the bestowing of this title.

There are currently around 300 active members of the society, a balanced mixture of scientists working in academia and industry. In 1986 UKEMS established the journal Mutagenesis with Jim Parry (Europe and Rest of the World) and John Heddle (North America) as editors. Subsequently, in 1993, an editorial office in Japan was established by Toshio Sofuni. In 2004 the journal went over to online manuscript submission with David H. Phillips as Editor-in-Chief and Jeffrey L. Schwartz and Makoto Hayashi as Senior Editors.

Four specialists groups are affiliated to UKEMS. You can find more information about these groups here.