“We think a lot about habitat disturbance, logging, and hunting as threats to these species, while pollution has been overlooked.”
Baboons in the U.S., howler monkeys in Costa Rica, and baboons, chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, and red colobus in Uganda are all getting exposed to dangerous pesticides and flame-retardant chemicals, according to new research.
“We were surprised both at the number of chemicals measured in the feces and the levels of some of these chemicals in animals, especially those that are wild,” Marta Venier, an environmental chemist at Indiana University and senior author of the study, told EHN.
The study, published today in Environmental Science and Technology, is the first to examine these chemicals in both wild and captive primates, and suggests that, as humans increasingly encroach on their habitat, such species are at a high risk of chemical contamination.
The researchers also caution the findings are a warning sign that such pesticide and flame-retardant pollution is harming people as well.
“The presence of numerous anthropogenic chemicals in primates living in protected areas warrants an evaluation of the possible biological effects resulting from exposure,” the authors wrote.
Researchers collected feces samples from captive baboons at a primate sanctuary in Indiana; wild howler monkeys at a research station in Costa Rica; and wild baboons, chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, and red colobus monkeys from a national park in Uganda.
The red colobus and chimpanzees in Uganda are both endangered populations, Michael Wasserman, a researcher and assistant professor of anthropology and human biology at Indiana University and co-author of the study, told EHN.
“We think a lot about habitat disturbance, logging, and hunting as threats to these species, while pollution has been overlooked,” Wasserman said.
They tested the samples for a suite of contaminants—21 legacy pesticides, 29 pesticides currently in-use, 47 halogenated flame-retardants, and 19 organophosphate flame-retardants.
They found a suite of chemicals across the species.
Environmental Health News, 9 September 2020