Phthalate pollution in an Amazonian rainforest
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- Lenoir, A., Boulay, R., Dejean, A. et al. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2016) 23: 16865. doi:10.1007/s11356-016-7141-z
Phthalates are ubiquitous contaminants and endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can become trapped in the cuticles of insects, including ants which were recognized as good bioindicators for such pollution. Because phthalates have been noted in developed countries and because they also have been found in the Arctic, a region isolated from direct anthropogenic influence, we hypothesized that they are widespread. So, we looked for their presence on the cuticle of ants gathered from isolated areas of the Amazonian rainforest and along an anthropogenic gradient of pollution (rainforest vs. road sides vs. cities in French Guiana). Phthalate pollution (mainly di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)) was higher on ants gathered in cities and along road sides than on those collected in the pristine rainforest, indicating that it follows a human-mediated gradient of disturbance related to the use of plastics and many other products that contain phthalates in urban zones. Their presence varied with the ant species; the cuticle of Solenopsis saevissima traps higher amount of phthalates than that of compared species. However, the presence of phthalates in isolated areas of pristine rainforests suggests that they are associated both with atmospheric particles and in gaseous form and are transported over long distances by wind, resulting in a worldwide diffusion. These findings suggest that there is no such thing as a “pristine” zone.