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Impacts on human health in the Arctic owing to climate-induced changes in contaminant cycling: the EU ArcRisk project policy outcome

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Jozef M. Pacyna
  • Ian T. Cousins
  • Crispin Halsall
  • Arja Rautio
  • Janet Pawlak
  • Elisabeth Pacyna
  • Kyrre Sundseth
  • Simon Wilson
  • John Munthe
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>06/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Environmental Science and Policy
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)200-213
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/03/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Results of the EU ArcRisk project on human health impacts in the Arctic owing to climate-induced changes in contaminant cycling are summarized in the context of their policy application. The question on how will climate change affect the transport of selected persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury, both to and within the Arctic has been addressed, as well as the issue of human health impacts of these pollutants in the Arctic in relation to exposed local populations. It was concluded that better characterization of primary and secondary sources of POPs and more accurate quantification of current and future releases of POPs from these sources are needed for better prediction of environmental exposure to these contaminants and interpretation of monitoring data. Further improvement of fate and transport modeling in the physical environment is necessary in order to consider in the models not only the relatively well studied direct effects of climate change (e.g., changes in temperature, ice and snow cover, precipitation, wind speed and ocean currents) on contaminants fate and behavior but also indirect effects, e.g., alterations in carbon cycling, catchment hydrology, land use, vegetation cover, etc. Long-term environmental monitoring of POPs (at multiple sampling stations within and outside the Arctic and at regular sampling intervals facilitates temporal trend analysis) and measurements of concentrations in human milk and blood plasma are needed. Finally, more information should be gathered on the human health effects of newly identified POPs, such as perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), hexabromocyclododecanes (HBCDs), and other substances with POP-like characteristics, particularly the effects on very young (including fetus) and elderly subgroups of the human population. The ArcRisk developed methodologies and tools that can be used in further studies to resolve various uncertainties already defined in the analysis of climate change impacts on POPs and mercury behavior and effects in the Arctic. The ArcRisk project has also developed very valuable databases that can be regarded as a starting point in further studies.