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E-M:/ MSU research shows PFO's contaminate everything

Enviro-Mich message from Tracey Easthope <tracey@ecocenter.org>


Edie weekly summaries   30/03/2001

New research finds another chemical compound bioaccumulates and may be more
persistent than DDT and PCBs

Here's a short piece from the article:

New research has found that PFOS, used to treat carpets, leather, paper and
fabrics, is present in the tissues of many species of animals around the
globe, and may present more of a problem than other well-known
bioaccumulating compounds.

Using a highly sensitive new technique, researchers at Michigan State
University have detected traces of a commercially produced polymer,
perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS), in a surprisingly wide variety of
wildlife - from Arctic seals to Ganges river dolphins and Mississippi
turtles. John Geisy and Kurunthachalam Kannan of the National Food Safety
and Toxicology Center at Michigan State University collected samples of
blood or tissue from mammals, birds, fish and reptiles from various parts
of the world and tested them for fluorinated organic compounds (FOCs), the
class of compounds to which PFOS belongs. They found that some species
contained varying levels of other FOCs but all contained PFOS, with the
highest levels found in animals found close to urban areas.

What surprised the researchers was that PFOS, like other FOCs, consisting
mainly of carbon and fluorine atoms, was found in animals from pristine
environments. Because it is a large molecule and its atoms are tightly
bound together, the chemical is exceedingly stable, therefore researchers
did not expect it to spread in the environment or become concentrated in
the food chain. "It got into the bald eagle's blood, polar bears, fish,
birds, everywhere. That surprised me," said Geisy.
The suggestion that PFOS can bioaccumulate and has spread worldwide has
"blind-sided most people", says environmental chemist Tom Cahill of Trent
University in Ontario, Canada. The new results have led environmental
chemists to wonder if , because FOCs are so persistent, they may represent
even more of a problem than the polychlorinated organic compounds (POCs),
which include PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and DDT

"There's no known degradative pathway for these compounds," Mabury points
out. The journal, Nature says that there is much work still to be done on
FOCs and it is not known how a chemical as inert and non-volatile as PFOS
is spreading around the globe. Mabury conjectures that volatile or more
water-soluble chemical precursors to PFOS may be travelling around the
globe and forming PFOS in situ.

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