Pollutants in the Arctic environment are threatening polar bear health

January 5, 2017, Wiley
A Polar Bear mother and her two cubs are shown in Wapusk National Park, Canada. Credit: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

A new analysis has found that although the risk of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic environment is low for seals, it is 2 orders of magnitude higher than the safety threshold for adult polar bears and even more (3 orders of magnitude above the threshold) for bear cubs fed with contaminated milk.

Relative to the 1980s, a decrease in risk from legacy POPs is evident for bear cubs, mainly because of international control measures; however, the composition of POPs substantially changes, and the contribution of new POPs (particularly perfluorooctane sulfonate) is increasing.

"This work is the first attempt to quantify the overall risk of POPs for the Arctic ecosystem and to define a ranking in order to highlight the most dangerous chemicals in the mixture," said Sara Villa co-lead author of the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry study.

"The results demonstrate that international control measures are effective at reducing the risk to ecosystems. Nevertheless it is fundamental to continuously implement the control of new and emerging contaminants," added co-lead author Marco Vighi.

Explore further: More than 10% of the US population has high concentrations of 10 or more persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

More information: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, DOI: 10.1002/etc.3671

Related Stories

NZ toxic contaminant levels halved, study shows

November 21, 2013

Blood samples taken by Massey researchers to measure the concentrations of toxic environmental contaminants, called persistent organic pollutants (or POPs), show their levels halved in the past 15 years among New Zealand's ...

Recommended for you

Evidence of earliest life on Earth disputed

October 17, 2018

When Australian scientists presented evidence in 2016 of life on Earth 3.7 billon years ago—pushing the record back 220 million years—it was a big deal, influencing even the search for life on Mars.

Arctic greening thaws permafrost, boosts runoff

October 17, 2018

A new collaborative study has investigated Arctic shrub-snow interactions to obtain a better understanding of the far north's tundra and vast permafrost system. Incorporating extensive in situ observations, Los Alamos National ...

Arctic ice sets speed limit for major ocean current

October 17, 2018

The Beaufort Gyre is an enormous, 600-mile-wide pool of swirling cold, fresh water in the Arctic Ocean, just north of Alaska and Canada. In the winter, this current is covered by a thick cap of ice. Each summer, as the ice ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.