CE34 - Contaminants, écosystèmes et santé

Occurrence and toxicity of legacy and emerging Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in seabirds: A large-scale survey in overseas and metropolitan France – ToxSeaBird

Submission summary

Poly and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are surface-active agents used in in a multitude of manufactured products including firefighting foam, waterproof clothing, non-stick cookware, food packaging, personal care products, electronics and metal plating and even pesticides. Transported over long distances, via atmospheric and oceanic transport, these highly persistent, bioaccumulative pollutants are now ubiquitous. In humans and in laboratory models, PFAS can cause cancer, affect immunocompetence and disrupt the endocrine system. However, the consequences of PFAS exposure remain poorly investigated in wildlife. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been included under the Stockholm Convention on POPs. However, PFAS cover more than 4,700 substances and the vast majority of PFASs are not regulated yet and some are increasingly detected in biota. Furthermore, development and manufacturing of alternative PFAS which are largely uncharacterized in terms of risks, remains ongoing, despite recent evidences of their environmental occurrence in wildlife tissues. Exposure assessments focused only on legacy substances (PFOS, PFOA) may severely underestimate overall exposure in wildlife. Evaluating exposure and effects of PFAS on wildlife is thus an environmental priority. As apex predators, seabirds are relevant bioindicators for marine pollution and there is an urgent need to monitor PFAS across a large range of habitats.
To improve our understanding of the global distribution of PFAS and their effects on wildlife, we propose the ToxSeabird project which aim at providing a comprehensive and unprecedented study of the occurrence and toxicity of legacy and emerging PFAS in seabird species along a unique geographical gradient encompassing Antarctic, subantarctic, subtropical, tropical, temperate and subarctic areas, from overseas and metropolitan France. Overseas and metropolitan France holds millions of seabirds including rare endemics and is therefore responsible for a significant part of the marine biodiversity. ToxSeabird involves five partners: Centre d’Etude Biologiques de Chizé (CEBC); Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux (EPOC); Littoral Environnement et Sociétés (LIENSs), Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (PhyMA), and Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert CURIEN (IPHC). The ToxSeabird project aims to: 1) Document the occurrence of legacy and emerging PFASs in 40 seabird species from overseas and metropolitan France, along Antarctic, tropical, temperate and subarctic areas; 2) Interpret patterns of PFAS contamination through trophic ecology (stable isotopes) and biologging; 3) Experimentally investigate effects of PFAS on key physiological mechanisms (hormones, oxidative stress, telomeres); 4) Relate PFAS contamination to demographic parameters using ongoing long-term ringing studies. Our project should give new insight into the exposome of seabirds across an unprecedented latitudinal gradient and provide innovative information about the poorly explored effects of PFAS on wildlife.

Project coordinator

Monsieur Olivier Chastel (Centre d'études biologiques de Chizé)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


IPHC Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien - IPHC (UMR 7178)
CEBC Centre d'études biologiques de Chizé
LIENSs Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés
CEBC Centre d'études biologiques de Chizé
EPOC Environnements et paléoenvironnements océaniques et continentaux
MNHN-PhyMA Physiologie Moléculaire et Adaptation
LIENSs Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés

Help of the ANR 773,989 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2022 - 48 Months

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