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Researchers watching a new chemical turning up in wildlife

Double-crested cormorant
Double-crested cormorant

There’s now more evidence that manmade chemicals can spread far and wide.


Researchers have founda chemical called PFPIA in cormorants, northern pike and bottlenose dolphins. The chemical has been used in pesticides, and it belongs to a group of chemicals called perfluorinated acids. They’re used to make cookware non-stick and make carpets stain resistant.


Amila DeSilva is a research scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.


“What’s concerning about perfluorinated acids is this persistence, this extraordinary environmental persistence," she says. "So when these compounds are released to the environment, they don’t seem to break down.”


DeSilva and her team tested cormorants from the Great Lakes region, pike and dolphins to get a sense of how widespread the chemical PFPIA might be.


“All of these species are fish-eating organisms but they represent very different habitats and niches,” says DeSilva.


She says it’s the first time this chemical has shown up in marine mammals or birds but studies have found it in people.


DeSilva says they need to do more studies to know whether this chemical can cause health problems.

The study appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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