|LONDON - The Arctic, already a dump for Russian nuclear waste from the Cold War, is also rapidly becoming a chemical sump for the globe, the World Wide Fund for Nature said on Thursday.|
New research had found even higher concentrations of banned pesticides like DDT in the Arctic environment than in the countries that produced them.
"This is a catastrophe for the Arctic," said WWF UK toxics programme head Elizabeth Salter Green. "Contamination is increasing and more and more chemicals are being found in Arctic species."
The environmental pressure group said some of the chemicals -- found not only in the fat of Arctic species including fish, seals and whales but also in the ice itself -- were affecting immune, hormone and reproductive systems.
It said the chemicals, including flame retardants and those used in the manufacture of non-stick cookware, drifted north on sea currents, became trapped in ice and were slowly released back into the environment years later.
"This trend will continue if we don't take action," Salter Green said. "Regulation of the chemicals industry has to improve -- and quickly."
Not only was it turning the Arctic into a chemical timebomb, but its wildlife were suffering too as the pollutants entered the bloodstream and went into vital fatty tissues where they remained for years, becoming steadily more concentrated.
"Arctic contamination has serious implications for wildlife but also for the indigenous peoples who rely on these species for food," said Salter Green.
"Strong chemical regulation is needed to prevent hazardous chemicals from reaching the Arctic in the first place," she added.
The United Nations is already backing an international clean-up operation to rid the Russian Arctic of a cocktail of toxic chemicals left behind after the Cold War.
Story by Jeremy Lovell
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE