Warm air and ocean currents caused by climate change are blamed for carrying pollutants to the Arctic and threatening the health of local inhabitants.
A study conducted by Arja Rautio, a scientist at the Centre for Arctic Medicine in the University of Oulu, Finland, shows that the northern regions of Europe are receiving much greater amount of contaminants because of more intense water and air mass movements.
Under the EU-funded project – ArcRisk, a number of studies are conducted looking at public health and contamination due to climate change. Raution, who is also a leader of the studies, states that it will be a while until we see the effects on population scale, however major pollutants such as fluorinated and brominated compounds and bisphenol A act directly on hormones levels.
Scientists working in ArcRisk have collected a huge dataset, which contains values of contamination levels in humans. The estimates date back to 1978, when Norway was threatened by high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated pesticides and polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs).
According to Raution, it is very important to differentiate between contaminants brought by currents and warm air, and contaminants from daily activities. Considering that people are exposed to harmful chemicals almost constantly, the factors are too hard to separate.
Thomas Zoeller at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA. says that, it is not only that people react differently to contaminants, but also some chemicals might persist in the human body for years before the symptoms have appeared.
But scientists are warning that some of the contaminants found in the Arctic are much more harmful than what we know. Some results from the work at ArcRisk show that chemicals in the region are already affecting the populations of major preditors, such as seabirds.
Geir Wing Gabrielsen, an environmental scientist at the Norwegian Polar Institute, is concerned that if animal populations are affected to such extent, it is only a matter of time to find out what influence the contaminants might have on humans.