Legacy and Novel Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Juvenile Seabirds from the U.S. Atlantic Coast

Environ Sci Technol. 2020 Oct 20;54(20):12938-12948. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.0c01951. Epub 2020 Oct 7.


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are anthropogenic, globally distributed chemicals. Legacy PFAS, including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), have been regularly detected in marine fauna but little is known about their current levels or the presence of novel PFAS in seabirds. We measured 36 emerging and legacy PFAS in livers from 31 juvenile seabirds from Massachusetts Bay, Narragansett Bay, and the Cape Fear River Estuary (CFRE), United States. PFOS was the major legacy perfluoroalkyl acid present, making up 58% of concentrations observed across all habitats (range: 11-280 ng/g). Novel PFAS were confirmed in chicks hatched downstream of a fluoropolymer production site in the CFRE: a perfluorinated ether sulfonic acid (Nafion byproduct 2; range: 1-110 ng/g) and two perfluorinated ether carboxylic acids (PFO4DA and PFO5DoDA; PFO5DoDA range: 5-30 ng/g). PFOS was inversely associated with phospholipid content in livers from CFRE and Massachusetts Bay individuals, while δ 13C, an indicator of marine versus terrestrial foraging, was positively correlated with some long-chain PFAS in CFRE chick livers. There is also an indication that seabird phospholipid dynamics are negatively impacted by PFAS, which should be further explored given the importance of lipids for seabirds.

MeSH terms

  • Alkanesulfonic Acids* / analysis
  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fluorocarbons* / analysis
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Rivers
  • Sulfonic Acids / analysis
  • United States
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Alkanesulfonic Acids
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Sulfonic Acids
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical