Anthropogenic Drivers of Variation in Concentrations of Perfluoroalkyl Substances in Otters () from England and Wales.
By Emily O'Rourke, Juliet Hynes, Sara Losada, Jonathan L Barber, M Glória Pereira, Eleanor F Kean, Frank Hailer, and Elizabeth A Chadwick
Environ Sci Technol
January 17, 2022
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are ubiquitous environmental contaminants that have been linked to adverse health effects in wildlife and humans. Here, we report the presence of PFASs in Eurasian otters () in England and Wales and their association with anthropogenic sources. The following 15 compounds were analyzed: 10 perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs), 4 perfluoroalkyl sulfonic acids (PFSAs), and perfluorooctane sulfonamide, in livers of 50 otters which died between 2007 and 2009. PFASs were detected in all otters analyzed, with 12/15 compounds detected in ≥80% of otters. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) accounted for 75% of the ΣPFAS profile, with a maximum concentration of 6800 μg/kg wet weight (ww). Long-chain (≥C8) PFCAs accounted for 99.9% of the ΣPFCA profile, with perfluorodecanoic acid and perfluorononanoic acid having the highest maxima (369 μg/kg ww and 170 μg/kg ww, respectively). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) concentrations were negatively associated with the distance from a factory that used PFOA in polytetrafluoroethylene manufacture. Most PFAS concentrations in otters were positively associated with load entering wastewater treatment works (WWTW) and with arable land, suggesting that WWTW effluent and sewage sludge-amended soils are significant pathways of PFASs into freshwaters. Our results reveal the widespread pollution of British freshwaters with PFASs and demonstrate the utility of otters as effective sentinels for spatial variation in PFAS concentrations.