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DATE: October 15, 2018

SNIP: A new summary of toxins in the Arctic shows contaminants, such as mercury, continue to threaten polar bears and whales. But new threats — both chemical and climatic — are emerging, says the report done for the eight nations that ring the North Pole.

“The number and types of contaminants continue to broaden,” said Canadian scientist Robert Letcher, one of the lead authors of the study for the Arctic Council.

Scientists have long known that many substances pumped into southern skies make their way to the North where they work their way throughout the Arctic food web and concentrate in large predators.

Among the most common is mercury, a potent neurotoxin and a byproduct of burning coal. Some Canadian polar bear populations have among the highest levels of mercury in the world. More than one-third of bears in the Beaufort Sea region are considered at high risk of health effects from mercury.

Also found are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which can include dioxins and PCBs, as well as residual products from pesticides and other industrial chemicals.