Arctic Drives the Need for POP Identification

Author:  Ziadh Muhammed

Date:  June 2008

Persistent organic pollutants (POP) have now entered into the Artic ecosystem as well. Birds and mammals in the Arctic are now showing high levels of contamination of POPs that has alarmed the researchers and scientists to look at POPs seriously. Though the Stockholm convention urged to identify POPs, only few among thousands of chemicals are assessed.

At the moment , a commendable work has been done in the process of the identification of these chemicals. Frank Wania and Trevor Brown of the University of Toronto screened 105,584 chemicals using the results of a global transport model and a human bioaccumulative model. The study has enabled them to identify the chemicals which have the potential to travel to the Artic and accumulate there. 4291 chemicals have been identified in the analysis as the potential chemicals to travel to Artic, among them 120 are produced in a mass scale.

Anyhow, the study was conducted only on the top marine predators, such as seals, whales and humans. Thus, the number of the chemicals likely to travel to Artic would go up if the analysis were broadened. "If you would vary certain aspects of our screening methods, you could end up with a different number." Wania said.

The study is well received among researchers and regulators who are working on POPs. . "I think the paper will be very important and will have a lot of implications for the kind of screening activity which we will see in the years to come," Geir Wing Gabrielsen, a toxicologist at the Norwegian Polar Institute, commented. "The advantage of this method is in its ability to account not only for long-range transport to remote regions but also the potential for deposition, uptake, and potential accumulation in Arctic biota and humans." Mark Bonnell, senior science adviser at European Commission, said.

Noticeably, the study has opened up the need for identifying the POPs and regulate them though the study is narrowed down to the Arctic. "The focus on just the Arctic here is limiting, because it certainly doesn't address the concerns about the whole range of persistent organic pollutants," added Richard Denison, senior scientist in an environmental advocacy group. "But it provides a useful way of thinking about how many chemicals yet to be discovered in the Arctic may well be there [already]."

Written by Muhammed Ziadh

Reviewed by Yangguang Ou

Published by Konrad Sawicki