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Sci Total Environ. 1992 Jul 15;122(1-2):1-74.

Arctic contaminants: sources, occurrence and pathways.

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  • 1Atmospheric Environment Service, Downsview, Ontario, Canada.


Potentially toxic organic compounds, acids, metals and radionuclides in the northern polar region are a matter of concern as it becomes evident that long-range transport of pollution on hemispheric to global scales is damaging this part of the world. In this review and assessment of sources, occurrence, history and pathways of these substances in the north, the state of knowledge of the transport media--the ocean and atmospheric circulation--is also examined. A five-compartment model of the northern region is developed with the intent of assessing the pathways of northern contaminants. It shows that we know most about pathways of acids, metals and radionuclides and least about those of complex synthetic organic compounds. Of the total annual inputs of anthropogenic acidic sulphur and the metals lead and cadmium to the Arctic via the atmosphere, an estimated 10-14% are deposited. A water mass budget for the surface layer of the Arctic Ocean, the most biologically active part of that sea, is constructed to examine the mass budget for one of the major persistent organochlorine compound groups found in remote regions, hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCH), one isomer of which is lindane. It is concluded that both the atmosphere and the ocean are important transport media. Even for the HCH substances which are relatively easily measured and simple in composition compared to other synthetic organics, we know little about the occurrence and environmental physical/chemical characteristics that determine pathways into the food chain. More environmental measurements, chemical characterization studies and environmental chemical transport modelling are needed, as is better knowledge of the circulation of the Arctic Ocean and the marine food web.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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