Warming Arctic Temperatures Are Causing Release of Long-Buried Toxins

Warming temperatures in the Arctic are causing the release of toxic pollutants long trapped in the region’s ice, snow, and ocean waters, a new study says. In an analysis of air-monitoring data collected at sites in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago and the Canadian province of Nunavut, researchers say there is evidence that man-made chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have been “remobilized” into the Arctic atmosphere over the last 20 years. They say there is a risk that the chemicals, some of which were banned decades ago, will eventually reach food and water supplies and accumulate in the body fat of humans and other animals. “The chemicals are known to be semi-volatile,” said Haley Hung, a scientist with Environment Canada’s Air Quality Division and co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. “They have the ability to evaporate out of storage” if temperatures are warm enough.