Ski wax is being EATEN by animals at winter resorts and infiltrating the food chain at potentially toxic rates, scientists warn
- Ski wax contains long-lived toxic chemicals called perfluoroalkyl substances
- Experts in Norway measured these chemicals in soil and animals at a ski resort
- The substances were found in worms and bank voles at unusually high levels
- While below toxic levels, experts warn they could build up more in big predators
Ski wax is being eaten by animals at winter resorts and is building up across the food chain to potentially toxic rates, a study has found.
Biologists concerned about the persistence of harmful chemicals in the environment took soil and animal samples from a popular Norwegian ski resort.
They discovered that perfluoroalkyl substances — or ‘PFASs’ — were building up in the soil, earthworms and small rodents called bank voles.
PFASs are used in a range of consumer products — including the waxes that winter sportspeople apply to their skis to help them glide better across the snow.
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Harmful chemicals in ski wax are being eaten by animals at winter resorts and is building up across the food chain to potentially toxic rates, a study has found
WHAT IS A PFAS?
Perfluoroalkyl substances — or ‘PFASs’ — are a family of synthetic chemicals containing multiple flourine atoms.
They are used to make glide wax for skiers which helps to reduce the friction between skis and snow.
They are also known to be used in certain types of firefighting foam.
Sometimes dubbed ‘forever chemicals’, they can remain in the environment for extended periods.
Experts from Norway have shown that PFASs can build up in the food chain at ski resorts, potentially to toxic levels.
‘The detected concentrations are far below toxicity threshold levels set in laboratory studies,’ said paper author and biologist Randi Grønnestad of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
This, she added, indicated that ‘individual PFASs in ski products may not pose a significant risk to the environment.’
‘Still, it should be taken into consideration that the reported concentrations were measured in organisms from the base of the food web.’
‘PFASs are persistent — and biomagnify in food webs — so the levels could be much higher at a higher trophic level, such as top predators.’
Concerned about their toxicity, authorities in the US and other countries have banned the usage of the two most worrying forms of the substance — perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctansulfonate.
Despite this, scientists remain anxious due to the stability of PFAS compounds, which can remain in the environment for many years before breaking down.
The researchers collected soil and animal samples from the Granåsen Ski Center in Trondheim, Norway — a venue which is popular with cross-country skiers, ski jumpers and biathletes.
They then compared these samples with those collected at a forested reference site, about nine miles away, which is not used for skiing.
PFASs are used in a range of consumer products — including the waxes that winter sportspeople apply to their skis to help them glide better across the snow
Soil analysis revealed that three individual PFASs were present at significantly higher levels around the ski area compared with the reference site.
Earthworms at the ski resort also had unnatural levels of two PFASs compounds in compared with their counterparts in the skier-free area.
Furthermore, bank voles from Granåsen had nearly six times higher total PFAS levels in their livers — along with notably higher levels of several long-chained PFASs found in ski waxes — than from those living at the reference site.
Alongside warning of the potential for toxicity to build higher up in the food chain, Ms Grønnestad also highlighted the risk that a dangerous mix of the chemicals could end up present in the environment.
‘They are exposed to a mixture of PFASs, rather than single contaminants, so the issue of mixture toxicity should also be addressed in any risk environmental assessment program of contaminants from skiing areas,’ she added.
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The team collected soil and animal samples from the Granåsen Ski Center in Trondheim, Norway — a venue which is popular with cross-country skiers, ski jumpers and biathletes