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Sea turtles across the North Pacific are exposed to perfluoroalkyl substances



Cathryn Wood, George H. Balazs, Marc Rice, Thierry M. Work, T. T. Jones, Eleanor Sterling, Tammy Summers, John Brooker, Lauren Kurpita, Cheryl King, Jennifer Lynch


Perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) are global, persistent, and toxic contaminants. We assessed PFAS concentrations in green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) turtles from the North Pacific. Fifteen compounds were quantified via liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry from 62 green turtle and 6 hawksbill plasma samples from Hawai'i, Palmyra Atoll, and the Northern Marianas Islands. Plasma from 14 green turtles severely afflicted with fibropapillomatosis, and eggs from 12 Hawaiian hawksbill nests from 7 females were analyzed. Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) predominated in green turtle plasma; perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) predominated in hawksbill tissues. Concentrations were greater in hawksbill than green turtle plasma (p < 0.05), related to trophic differences. Green turtle plasma PFOS concentrations were related to human populations from highest to lowest: Hawai'i, Marianas, Palmyra. Influence on fibropapillomatosis was not evident. PFASs were maternally transferred to hawksbill eggs, with decreasing concentrations with distance from airports and with clutch order from one female. A risk assessment of PFOS showed concern for immunosuppression in Kailua green turtles and alarming concern for hawksbill developmental toxicity. Perfluoroundecanoic (PFUnA) and perfluorotridecanoic (PFTriA) acid levels were correlated with reduced emergence success (p < 0.05). Studies to further examine PFAS effects on sea turtle development would be beneficial.
Environmental Pollution


Perfluorinated contaminants, marine turtles, Pacific islands, maternal transfer, reptile


Wood, C. , Balazs, G. , Rice, M. , Work, T. , Jones, T. , Sterling, E. , Summers, T. , Brooker, J. , Kurpita, L. , King, C. and Lynch, J. (2021), Sea turtles across the North Pacific are exposed to perfluoroalkyl substances, Environmental Pollution, [online],, (Accessed July 16, 2024)


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Created June 15, 2021, Updated January 24, 2022