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Comparative toxicity of aquatic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance exposure in three species of amphibians

February 24, 2022

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are contaminants of concern due to their widespread occurrence in the environment, persistence, and potential to elicit a range of negative health effects. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are regularly detected in surface waters, but their effects on many aquatic organisms are still poorly understood. Species with thyroid-dependent development, like amphibians, can be especially susceptible to PFAS effects on thyroid hormone regulation. We examined sublethal effects of aquatic exposure to four commonly detected PFAS on larval northern leopard frogs (Rana [Lithobates] pipiens), American toads (Anaxyrus americanus), and eastern tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum). Animals were exposed for 30 days (frogs and salamanders) or until metamorphosis (toads) to 10, 100, or 1000 μg/L of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), or 6:2 fluorotelomer sulfonate (6:2 FTS). We determined that chronic exposure to common PFAS can negatively affect amphibian body condition and development at concentrations as low as 10 µg/L. These effects were highly species dependent, with species having prolonged larval development (frogs and salamanders) being more sensitive to PFAS than more rapidly developing species (toads). Our results demonstrate that some species could experience sublethal effects at sites with surface waters highly affected by PFAS. Our results also indicate that evaluating PFAS toxicity using a single species may not be sufficient for accurate amphibian risk assessment. Future studies are needed to determine whether these differences in susceptibility can be predicted from species' life histories and whether more commonly occurring environmental levels of PFAS could affect amphibians.

Publication Year 2022
Title Comparative toxicity of aquatic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance exposure in three species of amphibians
DOI 10.1002/etc.5319
Authors Robert Wesley Flynn, Gary M. Hoover, Michael G. Iacchetta, Samuel C. Guffey, Youn J. Choi, Chloe De Perre, Belinda Huerta, Weiming Li, Jason T. Hoverman, Linda S. Lee, Maria S. Speulveda
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Index ID 70236616
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center