Hundreds of Unrecognised Halogenated Contaminants Discovered in Polar Bear Serum

Exposure of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) to persistent organic pollutants was discovered in the 1970s, but recent evidence suggests the presence of unknown toxic chemicals in their blood. Protein and phospholipid depleted serum was stirred with polyethersulfone capillaries to extract a broad range of analytes, and nontarget mass spectrometry with “fragmentation flagging” was used for detection. Hundreds of analytes were discovered belonging to 13 classes, including novel polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) metabolites and many fluorinated or chlorinated substances not previously detected. All analytes were detected in the oldest (mid-1980s) archived polar bear serum from Hudson Bay and Beaufort Sea, and all fluorinated classes showed increasing trends. A mouse experiment confirmed the novel PCB metabolites, suggesting that these could be widespread in mammals. Historical exposure and toxic risk has been underestimated, and these halogenated contaminants pose uncertain risks to this threatened species.

Authors: Liu Y, Richardson ES, Derocher AE, Lunn NJ, Lehmler HJ, Li X, Zhang Y, Cui JY, Cheng L, Martin JW. ; Full Source: Angewandte Chemie International Edition English. 2018 Oct 30. doi: 10.1002/anie.201809906. [Epub ahead of print]