A class of chemicals linked to multiple health hazards in humans have been detected in hundreds of wildlife species across the United States, according to a report issued Wednesday.
The report was released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) along with a map demonstrating that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are contaminating wildlife on every continent except Antarctica.
The data adds to several other reports of PFAS contamination in wildlife, and adds to the mounting concerns many researchers have about the long-term health and sustainability of important ecosystems.
“It’s a shocking wake-up call that much more needs to be done to protect wildlife … from the impacts of industrial chemicals,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and an author of the report.
PFAS are a class of chemicals used in a wide array of industries and products. They are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down in the environment. The chemicals have been linked to an array of human health problems, including certain cancers, reproductive issues and developmental problems.
The map showing the extent of the contamination in wildlife reflects data from 125 peer-reviewed studies of a wide range of species, including fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. PFAS contamination has been documented in polar bears in the Arctic Circle, tigers in China, plankton off the coast of Panama, crocodiles in South Africa, and many more species.