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A new analysis of peer-reviewed research conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that hundreds of animal species, from ticks to whales, are contaminated with toxic PFAS. The analysis highlights the breadth of contamination across the globe, with the chemicals found in a range of species such as scorpions, pandas, Siberian tigers, turtles, horses, dogs, plankton, sea lions, wild boar, otters, and oysters.

PFAS are a class of chemicals used to make thousands of consumer products resistant to water, stains, and heat, and they are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down. They have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, liver disease, kidney stress, and fetal complications.

While the analysis does not reveal how exposure to PFAS affects wildlife, anecdotal evidence in some of the previous studies shows that the chemicals are likely sickening animals. The highly mobile chemicals accumulate and continuously cycle through the environment because they do not break down, which means even animals in remote parts of the world can be contaminated with high levels of PFAS.

The impact on animals’ health remains unclear, but last year, researchers in North Carolina found autoimmune disorders similar to lupus in alligators living in water contaminated by a nearby PFAS plant owned by chemical manufacturer Chemours. Researchers also found evidence of immune system issues in north Pacific sea turtles.

The EWG has developed an interactive map that shows which animal species were studied, where they were analyzed, and the levels and types of PFAS found in their bodies. The breadth of the contamination is “sobering,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist with the EWG. “It has taken six decades of research on humans to really understand how these chemicals impact our biology in so many different ways … and there’s no reason to believe those same impacts are not also occurring in wildlife.”

The 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. 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.

This analysis is a clear indication that no more of this contamination should be going out into the environment. Governments and industries need to take responsibility and restrict the use of PFAS. As individuals, we can do our part by being mindful of the products we use and disposing of them responsibly.

By reducing our dependence on products containing PFAS, we can reduce the demand for these harmful chemicals and encourage businesses to move toward safer alternatives. The EWG’s interactive map is a powerful tool for individuals to see which animal species are affected and where the contamination is occurring.

Together, we can work towards a healthier, cleaner, and safer environment for all living beings.

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