The toxic exposure of flamingos to per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from firefighting foam applications in Bonaire.

In 2010 an oil terminal next to nature reservation Saliña Goto (Bonaire) caught fire. Firefighting resulted in elevated per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) concentrations in the salt lake. Within months flamingo abundance in Goto dropped to near complete absence. After statistical analysis, rainfall was deemed an unlikely cause for this decline. Toxicological effects on abundance of prey are likely the main cause for the flamingo absence. This reduced PFAS exposure via food and thus risk towards flamingos during the first years after the fires. Although the sediment is still polluted with persistent PFAS, flamingos returned, and started to feed on organisms with PFAS levels that exceed safety thresholds, placing the birds and other wildlife at risk. Monitoring bird populations is advised to assess potential toxic effects on birds and their offspring. This case suggests that applying persistent chemicals to reduce incident impacts may be more harmful than the incident itself.

Back to search results