Hundreds of Unrecognized Halogenated Contaminants Discovered in Polar Bear Blood

23 November 2018, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


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 emerging contaminants pose uncertain risks to this threatened species


environmental chemistry
halogenated contaminants
mass spectrometry
nontarget discovery
polar bear

Supplementary materials

20181121 Chemrxiv SI


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