Navigation Links
Greenland ice core reveals history of pollution in the Arctic

New research, reported this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that coal burning, primarily in North America and Europe, contaminated the Arctic and potentially affected human health and ecosystems in and around Earth's polar regions.

The study, titled "Coal Burning Leaves Toxic Heavy Metal Legacy in the Arctic," was conducted by the Desert Research Institute (DRI), Reno, Nev. and partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

Detailed measurements from a Greenland ice core showed pollutants from burning coal--the toxic heavy metals cadmium, thallium and lead--were much higher than expected. The catch, however, was the pollutants weren't higher at the times when researchers expected peaks.

"Conventional wisdom held that toxic heavy metals were higher in the 1960s and '70s, the peak of industrial activity in Europe and North America and certainly before implementation of Clean Air Act controls in the early 1970s," said Joe McConnell, lead researcher and director of DRI's Ultra-Trace Chemistry Laboratory.

"But it turns out pollution in southern Greenland was higher 100 years ago when North American and European economies ran on coal, before the advent of cleaner, more efficient coal burning technologies and the switch to oil and gas-based economies," McConnell said.

In fact, the research showed pollutants were two to five times higher at the beginning of the previous century than today. Pollution levels in the early 1900s also represented a 10-fold increase from preindustrial levels.

Continuous, monthly and annually averaged pollution records taken from the Greenland ice core dating from 1772-2003 produced the results. And although data showed heavy-metal pollution in the North Atlantic sector of the Arctic is substantially lower today than a century ago, McConnell and his research partner, Ross Edwards, an associate research professor at DRI, said there is still cause for concern.

"Contamination of other sectors may be increasing because of the rapid coal-driven growth of Asian economies," they wrote in the report. They argued the consequence may be greater risk to the food chain as toxic heavy metals from industrial activities in Asian nations are transported through the atmosphere and deposited in the polar regions.

Food chain contamination through toxic metal absorption from both the environment and from consumption of contaminated food sources could make its way to humans, who feed on long-lived land and marine animals such as caribou, seals and whale.

"Impacts on human health in the Arctic region haven't been determined," said McConnell. But he suggested cleaner burning coal technologies, or better yet reduced reliance on coal burning, may head off the potential problem.


Contact: Bobbie Mixon
National Science Foundation

Related biology news :

1. A survivor in Greenland: A novel bacterial species is found trapped in 120,000-year-old ice
2. Study reveals surprising details of the evolution of protein translation
3. New research reveals why chili peppers are hot
4. Fossil and molecular evidence reveals the history of major marine biodiversity hotspots
5. ID Analytics Study Reveals Employees Criminal Misuse of Stolen Identities
6. Study reveals air pollution is causing widespread and serious impacts to ecosystems
7. Deep sequencing study reveals new insights into human transcriptome
8. Stroke study reveals key target for improving treatment and suggests that Gleevec may help
9. From Canada to the Caribbean: Tree leaves control their own temperature, Penn study reveals
10. New study reveals large scale conservation essential
11. Metagenomics of skin reveals insights into the human microbiome
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Greenland ice core reveals history of pollution in the Arctic
(Date:5/3/2016)... , May 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, a provider ... MegaMatcher Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) , ... multi-biometric projects. MegaMatcher ABIS can process multiple complex ... any combination of fingerprint, face or iris biometrics. ... SDK and MegaMatcher Accelerator , which ...
(Date:4/19/2016)... UAE, April 20, 2016 The ... as a compact web-based "all-in-one" system solution for all ... fingerprint reader or the door interface with integration authorization ... access control systems. The minimal dimensions of the access ... into the building installations offer considerable freedom of design ...
(Date:3/31/2016)... RATON, Florida , March 31, 2016 ... LEGX ) ("LegacyXChange" or the "Company") ... for potential users of its soon to be launched ... video ( ) will also provide ... the use of DNA technology to an industry that ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 27, 2016   Ginkgo Bioworks , a leading ... was today awarded as one of the World ... world,s most innovative companies. Ginkgo Bioworks is engineering ... real world in the nutrition, health and consumer ... with customers including Fortune 500 companies to design ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... find the most commonly-identified miRNAs in people with peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma. Their findings ... here to read it now. , Diagnostic biomarkers are signposts in the blood, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... TORONTO , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon ... the development and commercialization of a portfolio of ... cancers. Epigenetic targets such as WDR5 represent an ... contribute significantly in precision medicine for cancer patients. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SANTA MONICA, Calif. , June 23, 2016  The Prostate Cancer ... to pioneer increasingly precise treatments and faster cures for prostate cancer. Members of ... 77 institutions across 15 countries. Read More About the ... ... ...
Breaking Biology Technology: