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Environmental contaminants in the Arctic

Environmental contaminants have been detected in Arctic ecosystems for many years, but we know that pollution in the Arctic is also being affected by increased commercial activity in the north. At the same time, the Arctic functions as a global early warning laboratory for the detection of new foreign substances with undesired properties. This gives Norway a unique opportunity and places it at the forefront of environmental stewardship in the High North.

NILU is uniquely positioned to support this stewardship, both through our solid presence at the Zeppelin Observatory in Svalbard, where one of the world’s longest and most comprehensive time series on environmental pollutants in air is ongoing, and also through our presence and active participation at the Fram Centre in Tromsø. Scientists at NILU actively participate in the collaboration programmes CLEAN, SUDARCO og C2C at the Fram Centre.

Knowledge about the transport and absorption of environmental contaminants in arctic organisms, as well as knowledge of their development over time, is very important both for people living in the High North and for commercial stakeholders. Safe food is important to all of us, and detection of new environmental contaminants in the Arctic is of great importance for the regulation of chemicals in the Stockholm Convention and for the EU’s REACH program (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).

The work in environmental chemistry is mainly concentrated around the following topics:

  • Developing methodology for analysis of new environmental contaminants in arctic environmental samples
  • Environmental contaminants’ capacity for long-range transport, persistence and bioaccumulation
  • Bioaccumulation of environmental contaminants in arctic food chains
  • Decomposition of organic pollutants
  • Developing models for spreading, exposure and absorption of environmental contaminants in animals and humans
  • Environmental contaminants in population surveys, time trends and exposure modelling
  • Microplastics in arctic food chains and leaching of chemicals from microplastics