Animals across the world are contaminated with hazardous forever chemicals or widely known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on every continent except Antarctica, according to a new report. In a major analysis, the Environmental Working Groupsaid that over 330 wildlife species around the world are harmed.
The analysis found that animals ranging from tigers and polar bears, to red pandas and voles, to plankton in the sea, are likely accumulating PFAS by eating fish, drinking water, or simply breathing air, and it could put them at risk.
“This new analysis shows that when species are tested for PFAS, these chemicals are detected,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., senior scientist at EWG. “This is not an exhaustive catalogue of all animal studies, but predominantly those published from the past few years.
“PFAS pollution is not just a problem for humans. It’s a problem for species across the globe. PFAS are ubiquitous, and this first-of-its-kind map clearly captures the extent to which PFAS have contaminated wildlife around the globe,” said Andrews.
The analysis, based on more than 100 recent peer-reviewed studies, plots a great variety of wildlife, including many types of fish, birds, reptiles, frogs and other amphibians, large mammals such as horses and polar bears, and small mammals such as cats. Some are already endangered or threatened.
“From the polar bear in the far reaches of the Arctic to the hawks bill turtle in the tropics of the Pacific Ocean, the world’s most critically imperilled species have yet another danger to contend with: PFAS chemical pollution,” said Nathan Donley, Ph.D., environmental health science director at the Centre for Biological Diversity. “Our choice is either to keep enabling extinction with widespread chemical contamination or take action to prevent it.”
PFAS bioaccumulate and do not break down in the environment. The findings raise serious health concerns for animals, since exposure to PFAS is linked to a range of health harms in people.
EWG analysis suggests that cardinals are being exposed to PFAS from soil, groundwater and air, with 12 different PFAS compounds found in their blood serum. Another study, on sea turtles in the north Pacific, finds PFAS can affect the development of these animals at every stage, from their eggs to immune systems.
Tests of animals were conducted most often on blood serum and plasma; on organs like the liver, kidney, and muscle, where PFAS are most likely to bioaccumulate; and eggs and other tissue samples.
Forever chemicals because of their tendency to stick around in the atmosphere, rainwater, and soil for long periods of time.
They are man-made chemicals used to make non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, cosmetics, fire fighting forms, and many other products that resist grease, water, and oil.
hey can migrate to the soil, water, and air during their production and use. Most PFAs do not break down, they remain in the environment for long periods of time. Further, some of these PFAs can build up in people and animals if they are repeatedly exposed to the chemicals. PFAS can be found in tons of manufactured goods, from food packaging and clothing, to fire fighting foam and (formerly) Teflon pans.
Though they’re useful for resisting water, heat, and stains, PFAS do not break down in the environment, earning them the “forever chemicals” nickname.
The chemicals are found in the blood of virtually everyone, including newborn babies. Very low doses of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to suppression of the immune system, including reduced vaccine efficacy, and an increased risk of certain cancers. PFAS are linked with increased cholesterol, reproductive and developmental problems and other health harms.
FIGHT AGAINST FOREVER CHEMICALS
“EWG has fought against PFAS for almost 25 years,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “In that time, our researchers have analysed scientific studies, conducted our own investigations, and plotted where toxic PFAS are detected. Now we’ve shown that these chemicals have polluted the bodies of animals in almost every corner of the world.
“There are still countless locations and species across the globe that are likely contaminated but have not yet been tested. PFAS pollution is a global problem. This map is just the beginning,” said Cook.