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Fluorine compounds are suspected of poisoning animals and birds in a wide area centering on Antarctica and the southern Pacific, a joint Japanese-U.S. research team said Wednesday.

The group of scientists from Ehime University’s Center for Maritime Environmental Studies and the State University of New York said the finding underpins a global spread of the substances originating in industrial nations in the Northern Hemisphere.

Some species of elephant seals and jaegers as well as albatrosses are among the animals affected by the fluorine compounds, the group said.

Tests suggest the fluorine compounds could adversely affect growth and damage their immunity functions.

The compounds are present in the air, fresh water, and bodies of humans and wild animals in developed countries. The European Union and the United States are considering limiting their use, experts said.

The group said it examined a number of fluorine compounds such as perfluorooctane sulfonate, more widely known as PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

The group researched the persistence of the fluorine compounds in samples from Antarctic seals, sea gulls and penguins as well as species of albatross in the Southern Hemisphere and the Indian Ocean. Ehime University provided the samples.

The compounds are believed to have been released mainly during production. They are widely used in the surfaces of nonstick frying pans and water-repellent clothing, the group said.

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