The Polar Regions are particularly exposed to the effects of pollutants
emitted in other parts of the globe (Box 2).
2: International conventions addressing Arctic contaminants
| Most of the critical contaminants impacting the Arctic environment
and the health of its inhabitants come from distant sources. The
solution to these problems, therefore, lies in regional and global
efforts to reduce worldwide emissions of persistent organic pollutants
(POPs) and heavy metal pollutants.
2003 marked the entry into force of two important regional protocols
under the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution
(LRTAP) set up under the United Nations Economic Commission for
The Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), entered
into force on 23 October 2003. It bans or severely restricts the
use of 16 substances, including 11 pesticides, two industrial
chemicals and three industrial by-products/contaminants.
The LRTAP protocol on heavy metals entered into force on 29 December
2003, and targets cadmium, lead and mercury. Parties are required,
by 2012, to reduce their emissions for these three metals below
their level in 1990 (or an alternative year between 1985–1995).
It will target industrial sources (metals industry), combustion
processes (power generated and road transport) and waste incineration
|Sources: AMAP 2003b, UNECE 2003
Though most sources of pollutants are located far from the Polar Regions,
some human-made chemicals can be transported over long distances by
prevalent winds, ocean currents and other mechanisms such as grasshopping
of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (Wania and Mackay 1996) and
have an impact on the polar environment through a variety of biological
and chemical mechanisms.
The resident population of the Arctic bears the effects of environmental
pollution. Indigenous people are particularly exposed to heavy metal
and persistent organic contaminants through their traditional diets
based on marine mammals. In some areas of East Greenland, up to 100
per cent of the population was found to have levels of blood contamination
higher than a ‘level of concern’, and 30 per cent were over
the level of action at which people were advised to reduce their intake
of traditional food (Figure 2) (AMAP 2003a).
Figure 2: Percentage of blood samples
taken from indigenous and non-indigenous women of reproductive
age that had mercury levels exceeding US EPA and Health Canada
|Source: AMAP 2003a
Indigenous peoples’ organizations are undertaking a number of
monitoring programmes to assess the risks and benefits associated with
traditional diets and to design community-level strategies to cope with
the situation (Crump 2003).
|Figure 3: The 2003 ozone hole over Antarctica dark
blue denoting high levels of ozone depletion was very large, close
to the all-time record.
Source: NASA 2003
Implementation of the 1979 Geneva Convention on Long Range Transboundary
Air Pollution (Box 2) and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Pollutants is important for reducing the burden of contamination on the
Arctic and its inhabitants