Exploration of toxic chemicals in the Arctic

Detectives: Searching for toxic chemicals in the Arctic

Ida Beathe Øverjordet takes samples as part of her work studying where and how to find medicines in the Arctic. Found: Lacie Setsaas, SINTEF Ocean

At first, a simple question was: what caused oil pollution to the gray seals on the Norwegian coast?

It was the early 1980s, and Conoco Philips asked a young Norwegian ecotoxocologist, Bjørn Munroe Jenssen, to find out.

The oil company is starting to explore for oil in the North Sea area called Halten Bank, off the coast of central Norway.

Jenssen and his colleagues found that pups could be contaminated with feathers.

“And more than 50% of them are polluted by these tiny little bugs. When they sleep and rest, their hair is dirty. The latest episode of 63 Degrees North, the podcast says. UK and NTNU.

But Jenssen and his colleagues wondered if there were any contaminants that could get into the animals ’bodies. So they did blood tests. And what they found they were astonished at.

The bitter book

Humans have made and used chemicals for millennia, but their activity has increased dramatically in the 20th century. A chemical drug, DDT, was discovered to be a powerful insecticide by Swiss physician Paul Herman Müller. , in 1939. Its use during World War II saved many lives, by killing insects that carry malaria and typhus. Muller won the Nobel Prize in 1948 for his knowledge.

But with the use of these and other chemicals, living things are beginning to realize that they can have unintended consequences for the earth.

In September, 1962, Rachel Carson published a book describing the effects of pesticides on the environment. He secretly called it “the Poison Book.” This work will help to stimulate the movement of the environment in the Western world. It’s called “Silent Spring.”

Despite Carson’s work, the use of chemistry continued. They were used for everything from keeping insects and weeds to making fire extinguishers. DDT was banned, but other chemicals were widely used.

Blood and blubber

The blood and tissue tests of Jenssen and his colleagues found an alphabetical soup of things.

“We started looking for other contaminants such as PCBs, polychlorinated biphenols, and pesticides, such as the old DDT, which were widely used, and they were being treated in Norway at that time, but Not on earth, ”he said. “And we got the highest concentration of these compounds in the seals.… In their blood and in their blubber we looked. We got the levels in the brains of these people. a newborn child. “

Then, it is only a question of determining if the icons are related to unclean animals.

The answer is “Yes.”

“We know there are associations between blood pollutants and levels of thyroid hormones, hormones that are very important for growth, for heat regulation, for energy production, and so on. , ”Jenssen said. “So we thought it was a very serious effect that could have compromised the life or health of the pups.”

Run in the wind

Jenssen doesn’t just see these chemicals in sealed pups. When he tested the animals in the Norwegian arctic, he found a lot of chemicals in them – everything from polar bear milk to Greenland shark blood.

But from these chemicals? They weren’t made in the Arctic, because there was no business there.

The researchers found that most of these pollutants could be carried in the wind or in the ocean currents. If blown up or released in some way, some can be vaporized and taken to the air, where they are blown away by strong north winds. They can let go of their journey, and put it back in the ground, to be soaked in the heat.

When they get to the Arctic, they want to be there, stuck in the snow, or as we know, in the fat or blubber of the animals that live there.

And as Jenssen and other researchers have found, they have a serious effect on the hormones of contaminated animals.

Natural population and health problems

Jon Øyvind Odland is a physician and global health researcher at NTNU and at UiT – the Arctic University of Norway.

Bjørn Munroe Jenssen writes about the types of chemicals that accumulate in animals, especially in the Arctic, and Odland hopes to look at what’s going on with the people in the far north. .

The Indigenous people in the far north usually ate sweet foods. And most of these things are stored in fats.

So when Odland studied the native people in Chukotka, in eastern Russia, he noticed that there were high levels of impurities in their blood. Moreover, they found a clear association between these high levels of contaminants and the quality of pediatric medications.

This is a difficult challenge: traditional foods are better in many ways for people living in these far northern areas. If residents switch to Western diets, they can develop other health problems, such as type II diabetes and heart disease.

“That’s the Arctic dilemma,” Odland said in the podcast. “Pollutants look for food, the best food you can get.”

Zooplankton in painful trees

Ida Beathe Øverjordet is one of Jenssen’s graduate students, studying mercury in the Arctic. Currently, he works at SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research agency, and continues his work on pollutants in the Arctic.

These days, he and his colleagues decided to see if they could make medicines for arctic organisms such as small zooplankton in samples taken in Svalbard, the archipelago. Norway at 79 degrees North latitude.

Medicines are known to be found in rivers, streams and lakes from wastewater stored on industrial lands, but Øverjordet wondered if the medicines might be found in a way to hitchhike in. the right.

And they got it.

“We had really high levels of painkillers, like ibuprofen and diclofenac.

Listen to 63 Degrees North to learn more about the effects of these chemicals – and how science can help policymakers do the right thing.

The study shows high levels of contaminants in killer whales

More information:
RJM Nuijten et al, Circumpolar pollutants in polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and population effects, Community Search (2016). DOI: 10.1016 / j.envres.2016.07.021

Valery Chashchin et al, Changes in the health risks of exposure to chronic contaminants among the indigenous people of Chukotka, International Newspaper for International Research and Health (2019). DOI: 10.3390 / ijerph17010128

Treskina NA Treskina et al, Sociodemographic factors affecting the health of pregnant women: changes in the Arctic countries in recent years. Akusherstvo and gynecology (2021). DOI: 10.18565 / aig.2021.6.5-13

Relationships between POPs, biometrics and steroids run in male polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Svalbard Environmental Pollution. 2017, 230 598-608. DOI: 10.1016 / j.envpol.06.095

Sophie Bourgeon et al, Potentiation of biological factors in the disruption of thyroid hormones by organo-halogenated contaminants in female polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from the Barents Sea, Community Search (2017). DOI: 10.1016 / j.envres.2017.05.034

Presented by Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Directions: Retrieved March 31, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-03-toxic-chemicals-arctic.html exploring toxic chemicals in the Arctic (2022, March 31)

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