Association between perfluorinated compounds and pathological conditions in southern sea otters

Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Aug 15;40(16):4943-8. doi: 10.1021/es060932o.


Concentrations of four perfluorinated contaminants, including perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), were measured in liver tissue from 80 adult female sea otters collected from the California coast during 1992-2002. Concentrations of PFOS and PFOA were in the ranges of <1-884 and <5-147 ng/g, wet wt, respectively. Concentrations of PFOA in the livers of these sea otters were among the highest values reported for marine mammals to date. Liver tissue from 6 male sea otters also was analyzed and contained significantly higher concentrations of PFOS than did tissues from female otters. To examine the association between exposures and potential effects, concentrations of PFOS and PFOA were compared among the adult female otters that died from infectious diseases, noninfectious causes, and from apparent emaciation. Concentrations of both PFOA and PFOS were significantly higher in sea otters in the infectious disease category than in the noninfectious category. Concentrations of PFOS and PFOA were not significantly different between noninfectious and emaciated otters, suggesting that the poor nutritive (body) status of emaciated otters did not affectthe concentrations of perfluorochemicals in livers. Concentrations of PFOA increased significantly from 1992 to 2002, whereas PFOS concentrations increased from 1992to 1998 and then decreased after 2000. Significant association between infectious diseases and elevated concentrations of PFOS/PFOA in the livers of sea otters is a cause for concern and suggests the need for further studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids / analysis*
  • Animals
  • California
  • Caprylates / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Pollutants / chemistry
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / analysis*
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Otters
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Caprylates
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • perfluorooctanoic acid
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid