Scientists at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston measured for concentrations of 13 perfluoroalkyl compounds in five different species of sea turtles.
PFCs, which have become widespread pollutants, are man-made compounds used in stain-resistant coatings, fire-fighting foams and emulsifiers in plastics manufacturing.
Animal studies have shown PFC to be toxic to the liver, the thyroid, neurobehavioral function and the immune system, a release from the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported Thursday.
The five sea turtle species studied were the green, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead and Kemp's ridley.
"We wanted to get the first accurate measurements of the plasma blood concentrations of PFCs in five sea turtle species across different trophic [food chain] levels, and then compare those concentrations to ones known to cause toxic effects in laboratory animals," NIST research biologist and study lead Jennifer Keller said.
"That way, we could estimate the potential health risks from PFC exposure for all five turtles."
Understanding the threat to sea turtles could help develop strategies to deal with potential health problems, Keller said.
"Our study provides the first baseline data in this area but more research is needed," she said.