New Map Shows ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in More Than 330 Different Wildlife Species

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, do not break down in typical environmental conditions. This has earned them the moniker “forever chemicals.” Found far and wide, they’ve been linked with health issues including immune system suppression, cancer, and increased cholesterol levels. A new study has shown just how broad their impact is, with hundreds of animals contaminated.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research organization, has released an analysis of more than 100 recent peer-reviewed studies on PFAS in wildlife across the world. An interactive map displays the findings, showing that the chemicals have been found in more than 330 wildlife species. That includes fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. They were also found in wildlife on every continent except Antarctica, though the researchers say that’s likely due to a small amount of recent testing there. That means the figures are likely even higher.


Dr. David Andrews, senior scientist at EWG, says, “This new analysis shows that when species are tested for PFAS, these chemicals are detected. This is not an exhaustive catalog of all animal studies, but predominantly those published from the past few years.

“PFAS pollution is not just a problem for humans. It’s a problem for species across the globe. PFAS are ubiquitous, and this first-of-its-kind map clearly captures the extent to which PFAS have contaminated wildlife around the globe.”

In a news release, EWG highlighted some of the studies included in their analysis, including one that found 12 different PFAS in the blood serum of cardinals, likely coming from soil, groundwater, and air. Another study suggests strong impacts on sea turtles, beginning at the egg stage.


Meanwhile, the map shows a variety of PFAS have been detected in species including polar bears, humpback whales, wolves, several seals, sea otters, red pandas, Siberian tigers, and even cats.

EWG President Ken Cook says, “Our researchers have analyzed scientific studies, conducted our own investigations, and plotted where toxic PFAS are detected. Now we’ve shown that these chemicals have polluted the bodies of animals in almost every corner of the world.

“There are still countless locations and species across the globe that are likely contaminated but have not yet been tested. PFAS pollution is a global problem. This map is just the beginning.”


The map will continue to be updated as more studies are added to the analysis.

PFAS can found in a variety of products, from nonstick pans and waterproof textiles to car waxes and personal care products. You can limit purchasing such items by contacting manufacturers directly to see if they use PFAS in a product, replacing non-stick pans with other cookware, and avoiding housewares labeled as stain- or water-resistant.

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