Alarming toxic ‘forever chemicals’ found in animal blood: study | PFAS End-shutdown

Hundreds of animal species around the world from ticks to Whales have blood contaminated with toxic PFAS, a new analysis of previous peer-reviewed research shows.

Although the analysis is not intended to reveal how PFAS exposure affects wildlife, anecdotal evidence in some of the earlier studies shows that the chemicals are likely to make animals sick.

The analysis was compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that tracks PFAS contamination and developed an interactive map showing which animal species were studied, where they were tested, and the levels and types of PFAS found in their blood.

Researchers have found the chemicals in a variety of species including scorpions, pandas, Siberian tigers, turtles, horses, dogs, plankton, sea lions, wild boars, otters, and oysters. The extent of the contamination is “sobering,” said David Andrews, principal scientist at the EWG.

“It has taken six decades of research in humans to really understand how these chemicals impact our biology in many different ways…and there is no reason to believe that those same impacts are not occurring in wildlife as well,” Andrews said.

PFAS are a class of about 12,000 chemicals often used to make thousands of consumer products resistant to water, stains, and heat. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down naturally and are linked to cancer, liver disease, kidney stress, fetal complications, and other serious health problems.

Federal data shows that the blood of nearly all Americans is contaminated with the compounds, but the wildlife research has been scattered until the EWG analysis added it up.

Highly mobile chemicals accumulate and continually circulate through the environment because they do not break down and can be transported long distances through the atmosphere. That means that even animals in remote parts of the world that are far from industrial sources, such as penguins or polar bears in the Arctic, can be contaminated with high levels of PFAS.

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

The health impact on the animals is still unclear, but last year researchers in North Carolina found lupus-like autoimmune disorders in alligators living in water contaminated by a nearby PFAS plant owned by chemical manufacturer Chemours. The researchers also found evidence of immune system problems in North Pacific sea turtles.

“All this research has been done, but the next step still needs to be taken – this should be a call for much more restriction,” Andrews said. “It’s a clear indication that no more of this contamination should be going out into the environment.”

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