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Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Feb 15;40(4):1120-5.

Trends in mercury in hair of Greenlandic polar bears (Ursus maritimus) during 1892-2001.

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  • 1Department of Arctic Environment, National Environmental Research Institute, P.O. Box 358, Frederiksborgvej 399, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark.


Mercury concentrations in hair from 397 Greenland polar bears (Ursusmaritimus) sampled between 1892 and 2001 were analyzed for temporal trends. In East Greenland the concentrations showed a significant (p < 0.0001, n = 27) increase of 3.1%/year in the period 1892-1973. In Northwest Greenland, a similar (p < 0.0001, n = 69) increase of 2.1%/year was found, which continued until 1991, when the most recent samples were obtained. In East Greenland, a significant (p = 0.009, n = 322) decrease of 0.8%/year was observed after 1973. Two Northwest Greenland samples from 1300 A.D. had a mean value of 0.52 mg/kg of dry weight, which can be considered as a baseline level. The Hg concentration during 1985-1991 from Northwest Greenland (mean value of 7.45 mg/kg of dry weight) was more than 14-fold higher than the assumed baseline level from 1300 A.D. from the same region (i.e., about 93% anthropogenic). Although a decrease was found in East Greenland after 1973, the concentration is still ca. 11-fold higher than the baseline level (i.e., about 90% anthropogenic).

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