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Forever chemicals in Amazonian rivers around the city of Manaus/Brazil

Grant number: 23/09923-6
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: January 01, 2024 - December 31, 2025
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Chemistry
Convênio/Acordo: University of Birmingham
Principal Investigator:André Henrique Rosa
Grantee:André Henrique Rosa
Principal researcher abroad: Stuart John Harrad
Institution abroad: University of Birmingham, England
Host Institution: Instituto de Ciência e Tecnologia. Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Sorocaba. Sorocaba , SP, Brazil


The Amazon has the largest rainforest in the world, which plays a key role in the water and carbon cycles. It also has an extensive biodiversity in terms of plants, animals, and microorganisms and contains about 15% of all fresh water on the planet. On the other hand, the Brazilian population in the Amazon increased from 8.2 million in 1972 to 28.1 million inhabitants in 2020, and consequently, the anthropogenic activities resulting from urbanization, industrialization, and expansion of agriculture, mainly in the Manaus city region, have put pressure on this sensitive environment. Thus, to guarantee the sustainability of the Amazon, monitoring the environmental quality of the region is essential, including in relation to the presence of new global emerging contaminants. Because of their resistance to environmental degradation, some of these chemicals are extremely persistent and are thus colloquially known as "forever chemicals". Those that will form the focus of this project are: PFAS (per and polyfluoroalkyl substances) and BFRs (brominated flame retardants). These are groups of contaminants that, due to their persistence, toxicity, and impacts on the environment and living organisms, are classified as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the United Nations Stockholm Convention that is designed to eliminate such contaminants. PFAS represent a class of over 4,700 synthetic chemicals that have been widely used in different products, such as coatings resistant to water, oils, and greases. BFRs, on the other hand, have been used to meet fire safety regulations in a variety of products, such as furniture and consumer electronics, among other applications. Despite their attractive industrial properties, widespread use of both PFAS and BFRs has led to their ubiquitous presence throughout the environment, including humans, with resultant concerns for health. Considering the importance of preserving the Amazon for the planet, it is surprising that very little if anything is known about the presence of these contaminants in the region. Consequently, this project will generate novel data on the presence of PFAS and BFRs in water and sediments from the region of the city of Manaus. Specifically, water and sediment will be collected from different rivers in the region to verify the influence of the urban area and industrial activities on the Negro, Solimões, and Amazonas rivers. PFAS and BFRs will be quantified using LC-MS/MS and GC-MS available at the laboratories of the University of Birmingham (UoB) and São Paulo State University (UNESP), respectively. The results of this unprecedented project will exert local, national, and global impact by helping to formulate policy to protect the Amazon region. As a preliminary project, the data generated will act as a pump-primer for proposals for funding (e.g. NERC, FAPESP) to examine the impact of PFAS and BFRs on Amazon wildlife, that will sustain the collaboration. We anticipate this project will generate at least one (likely two) high quality peer-reviewed publication. (AU)

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