New study: PFAS found in 100% of otters tested in England and Wales
PFAS, the group of toxic “forever chemicals” found in the environment across the globe and also in people’s blood, have now been found polluting the bodies of otters in England and Wales.
Scientists tested for 15 different kinds of PFAS in the livers of 50 otters who died between 2007 and 2009. PFAS were detected in all the otters analysed, with 12 out of 15 compounds detected in over 80% of otters.
Looking for a connection between the sources of PFAS and concentrations of the substances found in otters, scientists discovered that levels of certain PFAS were higher where otters lived closer to factories that used these PFAS in manufacturing. However, most PFAS are suspected to have entered the otters’ bodies through wastewater effluent and arable land where sewage sludge had been used. PFAS end up in wastewater effluent as a result of their use in consumer products, such as cosmetics and clothes.
The Marine Conservation Society has previously highlighted how PFAS (and other harmful substances such as micro-plastics) are not removed from sludge. When sludge is spread on fields as fertiliser these harmful substances enter into waterways where they can damage the health of wildlife and aquatic ecosystems.
The lead author of the study referred to otters as a “sentinel” species (animals or organisms we can use to detect risks to humans by providing advance warning of danger). This latest study on otters, in combination with the conclusion of the recent parliamentary inquiry stating English rivers are suffering under a ‘chemical cocktail’, are further evidence of widespread pollution in English freshwaters.
There is a pressing need for chemical pollution, including PFAS pollution, to be controlled at source. This is why CHEM Trust is calling for PFAS and other persistent chemicals to be phased out in the UK. Read more about the work CHEM Trust does at EU and UK level.
Read more about PFAS and our 2013 report highlighting concerns about persistent chemicals and otter health.
UPDATE: 2nd Feb 2022 ‘Otter decline “wake-up call” over river pollution’ in BBC Wales