A new study concludes that toxic chemical levels are finally dropping in Arctic food animals; the bad news is that the mercury content isn’t.
The Canadian government recently released a study indicating that carcinogens such as PCBs and other toxins derived from pesticides sprayed in the south have been on the decline due to international agreements limiting the use of toxic chemicals. Since a “dirty dozen” batch of chemicals were banned at the Stockholm Convention in 2004, less chemicals are being concentrated in the Arctic by the global air currents that force them northward.
Previously, Canada’s Inuit population was found to have some of the highest PCB levels in their systems of any population worldwide.
At present, the PCB levels found in beluga, narwhal, walrus and ringed seal have fallen by an average of 43 per cent since 1997. Though there were variations depending on the community, the levels of toxic chemicals have dropped among the Inuit by 20 per cent. The research group did not examine the levels of toxic chemicals found in caribou, however.
At the same time, mercury levels have seen no decrease and are still on the rise due to the burning of coal to generate power. As the US government says it will use even more coal as an energy source, this trend will most likely persist.
A survey is being conducted on all coastal Inuit communities to check actual contaminant blood levels, with similar studies to be conducted in the Northwest Territories and Labrador throughout the summer. The results will be expected in one year’s time.