Persistent organic pollutants and mercury in marine biota of the Canadian Arctic: An overview of spatial and temporal trends

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Science of the Total Environment



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Arctic, Beluga, Canadian Arctic, Chemical contaminants, Marine ecosystem, Mercury, Organochlorines, PCBs, Ringed seals, Seabirds, Temporal trends

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This review summarizes and synthesizes the significant amount of data which was generated on mercury (Hg) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Canadian Arctic marine biota since the first Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report (CACAR) was published in 1997. This recent body of work has led to a better understanding of the current levels and spatial and temporal trends of contaminants in biota, including the marine food species that northern peoples traditionally consume. Compared to other circumpolar countries, concentrations of many organochlorines (OCs) in Canadian Arctic marine biota are generally lower than in the European Arctic and eastern Greenland but are higher than in Alaska, whereas Hg concentrations are substantially higher in Canada than elsewhere. Spatial coverage of OCs in ringed seals, beluga and seabirds remains a strength of the Arctic contaminant data set for Canada. Concentrations of OCs in marine mammals and seabirds remain fairly consistent across the Canadian Arctic although subtle differences from west to east and south to north are found in the proportions of various chemicals. The most significant development since 1997 is improvement in the temporal trend data sets, thanks to the use of archived tissue samples from the 1970s and 1980s, long-term studies using archeological material, as well as the continuation of sampling. These data cover a range of species and chemicals and also include retrospective studies on new chemicals such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers. There is solid evidence in a few species (beluga, polar bear, blue mussels) that Hg at some locations has significantly increased from pre-industrial times to the present; however, the temporal trends of Hg over the past 20-30 years are inconsistent. Some animal populations exhibited significant increases in Hg whereas others did not. Therefore, it is currently not possible to determine if anthropogenic Hg is generally increasing in Canadian Arctic biota. It is also not yet possible to evaluate whether the recent Hg increases observed in some biota may be due solely to increased anthropogenic inputs or are in part the product of environmental change, e.g., climate warming. Concentrations of most "legacy" OCs (PCBs, DDT, etc.) significantly declined in Canadian Arctic biota from the 1970s to the late 1990s, and today are generally less than half the levels of the 1970s, particularly in seabirds and ringed seals. Chlorobenzenes and endosulfan were among the few OCs to show increases during this period while ∑HCH remained relatively constant in most species. A suite of new-use chemicals previously unreported in Arctic biota (e.g., polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), short chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs), polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs), perfluoro-octane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs)) has recently been found, but there is insufficient information to assess species differences, spatial patterns or food web dynamics for these compounds. Concentrations of these new chemicals are generally lower than legacy OCs, but there is concern because some are rapidly increasing in concentration (e.g., PBDEs), while others such as PFOS have unique toxicological properties, and some were not expected to be found in the Arctic because of their supposedly low potential for long-range transport. Continuing temporal monitoring of POPs and Hg in a variety of marine biota must be a priority. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.





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