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Arctic Ecosystem Research Shows Traces Of New-Generation Pesticides

Tue., Sept. 30, 1997

A new generation of pesticides that were not supposed to linger in the environment are showing up in the Arctic, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist.

Researchers from the Department of Agriculture discovered traces of the new compounds a couple of years ago in the ice fog and surface ice near the Pribilof Islands.

“This was a surprise to everyone,” said M. Jawed Hameedi of NOAA. Two weeks ago, scientists returned to the Beaufort Sea to continue sampling. The new pesticides replaced products like DDT, banned in the 1970s because once in the environment its toxic effect is harmful and long-lasting.

In recognition of an increase in arctic contamination, eight Arctic nations, including the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway and Sweden, joined six years ago to discuss how to create a unified system to monitor arctic contaminants. Data from the eight countries were complied and presented last summer.

Ted DeLaca, director of the Office of Arctic Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, presented the result to dozens of scientists who gathered in Valdez for a three-day American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium last weekend.

DeLaca listed some of the findings from the arctic monitoring program. They included:

Elevated mercury levels are present in both the arctic ecosystem and people who live there. The level of mercury in human blood in the Arctic is five to 12 times higher than southern populations. The levels likely will continue to increase with the worldwide use of coal.

Nuclear waste dumped in the ocean by the then-Soviet Union doesn’t appear to pose any serious health risks. The greater risk comes from poorly maintained nuclear power plants and inadequate storage facilities in Russia.


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