Contamination Found in Crocs and Gators Across the Globe

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By Andrew M. Ballard

Aug. 25 — Researchers have found perfluorinated chemicals in the blood of American alligators and South African crocodiles thousands of miles apart.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, the family of compounds found in the reptiles is environmentally persistent and associated with liver toxicity, reduced fertility and other health effects. Production of some of them has been phased out by DuPont and 3M in the U.S. and other countries.

Useful Data

Despite the phase-outs, two separate studies conduced by researchers affiliated with the institute found perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs) in alligators in Florida and South Carolina as well as crocodiles in South Africa, the institute announced Aug. 25. Those types of compounds are used in products such as non-stick pans, fire suppressants, waxes and water- and stain-repellent materials.

Blood plasma samples taken from 125 alligators at 12 sites in Florida and South Carolina contained traceable amounts of at least six of such compounds, according to the study. Blood samples drawn from 45 crocodiles at five sites in and near the Kruger National Park in South Africa showed some level of four of those compounds as well, the institute said.

The studies are the first-of-their-kind examinations of such contamination in “sentinel” reptile species and are particularly useful for evaluating the impact of long-lived chemicals in the environment.

EPA Advisory

In May, due to increasing public concern, the Environmental Protection Agency issued lifetime drinking water health advisories of 0.07 microgram per liter for individual or combined exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), both PFAA compounds.

Those nonbinding limits are intended to guide local water systems, states and others in determining the concentrations of the highly fluorinated chemicals in drinking water that are considered safe for public health.

The two reptile studies were led by the Hollings Marine Laboratory, a Charleston, S.C.-based government and academic partnership that includes the institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Ocean Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the College of Charleston, and the Medical University of South Carolina.

Researchers plan to continue monitoring the compounds on both continents where the reptiles were studied, according to the institute.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Ballard in Raleigh, N.C., at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

For More Information

Copies of the American alligator study are available at

The South African crocodile study is at

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