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Scientists Worried About Chemical Levels in SC Alligators

Researchers in South Carolina are examining dozens of samples of alligator harvested in the state to determine whether they contain elevated levels of potentially harmful chemicals.

Mnet 124849 Alligator

Researchers in South Carolina are examining dozens of samples of alligator harvested in the state to determine whether they contain elevated levels of potentially harmful chemicals.

The State newspaper reports that a recent study identified "soaring chemical levels" in the blood of some alligators and that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of Commerce collected 43 samples for further chemical analysis.

The initial study from the Medical University of South Carolina and the Commerce Department showed high levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate or PFOS — a fire retardant chemical linked to cancer, thyroid issues and other health problems — in alligators at several sites along South Carolina's coast.

Scientists were concerned because the sites surveyed in that study were not located near industrialized areas; some speculated that fish from more contaminated inland spots eventually made their way toward the coast and became food for alligators and other top predators.

The study underway from the DNR and Commerce Department aims to determine whether PFOS or other perfluoroalkyl acids -- such as Teflon ingredient PFOA — could endanger people that might consumer alligator meat.

The paper noted that hunters killed more than 3,300 alligators since South Carolina authorized public hunting of the reptiles in 2008. Hunters cannot sell meat from those kills to restaurants, but they often consume the meat themselves.

“We want to make sure hunters can hunt, eat the meat and be well-informed," Commerce Department scientist Jessica Reiner told The State.

Scientists hope to publish their findings next year.

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