Evaluation of per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in livers of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) found stranded along the northern Adriatic Sea

By Giuseppe Sciancalepore, Guido Pietroluongo, Cinzia Centelleghe, Massimo Milan, Marco Bonato, Giorgia Corazzola, and Sandro Mazzariol
Environ Pollut
September 28, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.118186

Per-and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals used in a wide variety of commercial products and industrial applications. These chemicals are persistent, can accumulate in humans' and animals' tissues and in the environment, representing an increasing concern due to their moderate to highly toxicity. Their global distribution, persistence and toxicity led to an urgent need to investigate bioaccumulation also in marine species. In 2013 PFAS contamination was detected in a vast area in Veneto region, mainly in Adige and Brenta rivers. In order to investigate any relevant presence of these substances in marine vertebrates constantly living in the area, PFAS were measured in hepatic tissue samples of 20 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) stranded along the northern Adriatic Sea coastline between 2008 and 2020. Using high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, 17 target PFAS (PFBA, PFPeA, PFHxA, PFHpA, PFOA, PFNA, PFDA, PFUnA, PFDoA, PFTrDA, PFTeDA, PFBS, PFHxS, PFOS, PFDS, PFHpS, PFPeS), were quantified in the samples. PFAS profiles were generally composed of the same five dominant PFAS (PFOS > PFUnA > PFDA ≈ PFDoA ≈ PFTrDA). The greatest PFOS concentration found was 629,73 ng/g wet weight, and PFOS accounted until 71% in the PFAS profiles. No significant differences between sexes were found, while calves showing higher mean values than adults, possibly indicating an increasing ability in the elimination of PFAS with age. Finally, a temporal analysis was carried out considering three different periods of time, but no temporal differences in concentrations were found. The results suggest that long-chain PFAS are widespread in bottlenose dolphins along the North Adriatic Sea. Furthermore, they represent a baseline to investigate the impact of PFAS on marine mammals' conservation and health. Filling an important gap in the knowledge of PFAS accumulation in bottlenose dolphins, this study highlights the relevant role of Environmental and Tissue Banks for retrospective analyses on emergent contaminants.

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