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Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ found in 100s of species

Posted on the 23rd February 2023

PFAS map

So-called ‘forever chemicals’ have been found in hundreds of species of animals around the world.

New analysis of previous peer-reviewed research shows the shocking extent of the contamination caused by PFAS and, while it doesn’t probe the effects of the exposure to the toxins, anecdotal evidence in some of the previous studies show the chemicals are likely sickening animals.

PFAS are a class of about 12,000 chemicals often used to make thousands of consumer products resist water, stains and heat.

They are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally break down. They are linked to cancer, liver disease, kidney stress, fetal complications and other serious health problems.

Compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization that tracks PFAS contamination, an interactive map has been developed to highlight the animal species studied, where they were analyzed, and the levels and types of PFAS found in their blood.

The alarming results show the chemicals are present in a broad range of species and include scorpions, pandas, Siberian tigers, turtles, horses, dogs, plankton, sea lions, wild boar, otters and oysters.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Norwegian Arctic ice is contaminated with alarming levels of toxic PFAS, and the chemicals could pose a major environmental threat to the region’s wildlife.

The Oxford University-led study detected 26 types of PFAS compounds and found that when the ice melts, the chemicals can move from glaciers into downstream ecosystems like Arctic fjords and tundra.

The resulting meltwater can contain a cocktail of contaminants that includes PFAS and affects the entire food web, including plankton, fish, seal and apex animals like polar bears.

Meanwhile, federal data shows that nearly all Americans’ blood is contaminated with the compounds, but research on wildlife has been scattered until the EWG analysis aggregated it.

The highly mobile chemicals accumulate and continuously cycle through the environment because they do not break down, and they can be carried long distances through the atmosphere.

Researchers have found about 120 kinds of PFAS compounds in animals’ blood, though that figure is likely higher because limits on testing capabilities make it difficult to identify many of the chemicals.

Related: The end of animal testing?

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