Recent research has revealed concerning findings about tiger snakes in Perth’s urban wetlands. The study, conducted jointly by Curtin University, CSIRO, and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, focused on the impact of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) on these venomous reptiles.
PFAS is commonly found in non-stick cookware, food packaging, and firefighting foam, and it poses significant risks to the health of tiger snakes. The researchers examined the livers of the snakes and observed that PFAS ingestion was negatively affecting their overall well-being.
Lead researcher Dr. Damian Lettoof emphasized that this study is among the first to investigate the impact of PFAS on wild snakes globally. Tiger snakes in Perth’s urban wetlands, including Herdsman Lake and Lake Joondalup, were found to be noticeably thinner and unhealthy compared to their healthier counterparts. They exhibited compromised muscle function, body tone, and decreased energy levels.
As top predators, tiger snakes primarily acquire PFAS through the animals they prey upon. This suggests that frogs, birds, and lizards in the wetlands may also be accumulating PFAS and require examination.
While more research is needed to fully understand the implications of PFAS exposure on tiger snakes’ survival, this study sheds light on how these harmful chemicals may affect their physiological functions and energy levels.
It is worth noting that most people in Australia and other countries typically have low levels of PFAS in their bodies from exposure to everyday household items, such as carpet and upholstery protective sprays, cosmetics, sunscreens, and non-stick cookware.
The researchers hope that these findings will help local and state governments improve the regulation of PFAS-containing products and limit their impact on Western Australian wildlife. Some governments and companies have already taken measures to regulate or phase out the use of PFAS due to health concerns.
The most prevalent PFAS chemical found in tiger snakes was PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), which was previously used in firefighting foam before being banned in the early 2000s. However, PFAS persists in many products and the environment for extended periods, making it difficult to eradicate.
Although studies on animals and humans have already shown adverse effects of chronic PFAS exposure on the liver, immune function, and thyroid hormones, further research is required to comprehend its full impact on reptiles and other species.
Source: Curtin University