Numerous animal species, such as caribou, narwhals, arctic foxes, polar bears, and seals, as well as the fish and plankton that many of them eat, are found in the Norwegian Arctic. Unsettlingly high concentrations of hazardous PFAS everlasting chemicals have recently been discovered contaminating ice in the area, which may pose a major threat to wildlife.
According to The Guardian, measurements made during a study conducted by Oxford University researchers revealed the presence of 26 PFAS chemical compounds in the ice surrounding Svalbard, Norway.
The toxic compounds from melting ice can contaminate the ecosystems of Arctic fjords and tundra by flowing downstream from glaciers. The toxic concoction contaminates the food chain from plankton to top-level animals.
According to the main researcher Dr. William Hartz, there is a seasonal washout of toxins, and some PFAS appear to be mobile during melts, which may be relevant to ecosystems downstream.
As the ice melts and temperatures in Svalbard warm up faster than the global average owing to climate change, Hartz observed a doubling-up effect on species.
According to the study’s authors, seasonal snowmelt and runoff from post-industrial accumulation on glaciers may be a substantial seasonal source of PFAS for ecosystems in Arctic fjords.
Published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, the paper is titled Levels and distribution profiles of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a high Arctic Svalbard ice core.
The term “forever chemicals” refers to PFAS, which are utilized to create consumer goods that are stain, heat, and water resistant but don’t decompose naturally in the environment.
They are made up of a class of over 12,000 compounds that have been linked to a variety of issues, including kidney and liver issues, cancer, an increased chance of developing asthma, and lower fertility.
According to The Guardian, levels of PFOA and PFOS, two of the most hazardous PFAS chemicals, were discovered in the ice that was greater than the U.S. safe drinking water guidelines. Additionally, exceptionally high quantities of the refrigerant byproduct TFA were discovered.
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According to WION, high PFAS concentrations have been discovered in the bloodstreams of polar bears.
According to Hartz, who was quoted by The Guardian, polar bears face stress due to a changing habitat as well as exposure to harmful man-made toxins.
Following the Montreal Protocol of 1987, many nations began to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a greenhouse gas used to produce aerosol sprays, packing materials, and refrigerants. Hydrofluoro-olefin was finally employed in their place (HFOs).
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Another greenhouse gas that can decompose into TFA is HFO. TFA may travel across the globe, and researchers discovered that the amount of TFA in the Arctic is rising.
The study’s authors stated that there is a need to address the “limited understanding” regarding the permissible amounts of TFA in the environment.