Pollutants in the Arctic

Pollutants in the Arctic

Top image: Pernilla Carlsson (left) and her field assistants extract tissue samples from a reindeer in Svalbard. Photo: Pernilla Carlsson/UNIS.

Some pollutants are buried deep into the soil, snow and ice, but are transported into the sea by meltwater runoffs. How much of these contaminants end up in the ocean and how does this influence the take-up of pollutants in the Arctic marine food web? That’s what Pernilla Carlsson, PhD candidate in environmental chemistry, has tried to find out. Thursday she will defend her PhD at UNIS.

18 November 2013
Press relase from UNIS and University of Tromsø

Pernilla Carlsson’s PhD thesis, “Selective processes for bioaccumulative up-take of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Arctic food webs” is part of the ArcRisk project (www.arcrisk.eu), where the overall aim of the present study was to elucidate selective environmental up-take processes in Arctic food webs that lead to the bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants (POP) in food items consumed by Arctic indigenous people.

This study also aimed to increase the scientific understanding of the principles behind climate change related influences on transport processes of contaminants. Svalbard and Nuuk, Greenland were chosen as study areas since they represent Arctic conditions, e.g. glaciers, different marine water masses, long-range transport of POPs and few local sources of POPs. In addition, Greenland has a large population of indigenous people consuming traditional food on a daily basis.

This thesis is based on field campaigns and empirical data. Legacy pesticides were analysed in water samples from a Greenlandic fjord. The pesticide distribution indicated that glaciers and snow caps around the fjord are secondary sources of contaminants for the coastal marine environment. Chlordanes were identified as potential indicator compounds for meltwater runoff.

α-hexachlorocyclohexane (α-HCH), trans-, cis- and oxychlordane were chosen for enantiomer selective analyses in zooplankton from Svalbard and Greenlandic traditional food items. The enantiomeric fraction (EF) of α-HCH in the zooplankton was associated to ice cover/break-up. EFs of cis-chlordane were reflected in the deviation from racemic EF among oxychlordane. Chiral pesticides and enantiomer selective analyses are recommended for further studies regarding their potential as marker for changes of the physical environment.

Non-racemic EFs were detected for almost all food samples. Hence, species specific distribution exists, and can be an important factor in future dietary advices. Levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS) and pesticides were below tolerable daily intake threshold in the food items. PFAS was detected in the marine mammals, but not in the fish samples, most likely due to industrial processing of the fish.

Pernilla Carlsson

Pernilla Carlsson. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

Pernilla Carlsson will defend her PhD thesis “Selective processes for bioaccumulative up-take of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Arctic food webs” on Thursday 21 November at 12:15 in auditorium Lassegrotta at UNIS. Carlsson will give a trial lecture entitled “Impact of climate change on the environmental fate of organic pollutants” on Thursday 21 November at 09:15.

About the candidate:
Pernilla Carlsson (born 1986 in Stenungsund, Sweden) studied marine and analytical chemistry at the University of Göteborg.

She earned her MSc in environmental chemistry at NILU and Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø. She started her PhD work at UNIS and University of Tromsø in 2009.

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