Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Emerging contaminants and biological effects in Arctic wildlife

New publication by Christian Sonne, Rune Dietz, Bjørn Munro Jenssen, Su Shiung Lam, Robert J. Letcher

2021.05.19 | Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen



Industrial chemicals have been present in the Arctic for decades and levels are still high in Arctic biota, particularly in top predators, despite national and international bans and regulations. New and replacement chemicals are being produced in high volumes. A growing number of these are being detected in Arctic media including wildlife and are chemicals of emerging Arctic concern (CEACs). Environmental information, toxicity, and biological effects are largely unknown for many of the CEACs. Although recently established CEACs are being phased out or internationally regulated, there is a need to prioritize research on the numerous other CEACs. We have little knowledge regarding their biomagnification and potential toxicity to Arctic wildlife and we need to better define and ultimately fully identify their contribution to the chemical mixture cocktail of Arctic pollution. Both persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and strategic consideration of CEACs need to be part of long-term monitoring programs focusing on mixture toxicity, threshold levels of toxicological concern, climate change, and infectious diseases. Recent advances in environmental analytical chemistry have identified the presence of a large number of chemicals of emerging Arctic concern (CEACs) being transported long range to the region. There has been very limited temporal monitoring of CEACs and it is therefore unknown whether they are of increasing or decreasing concern. Likewise, information on potential biological adverse effects from CEACs on Arctic wildlife is lacking compared with legacy persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found at levels associated with health effects in marine mammals. Hence, there is a need to monitor CEACs along with POPs to support risk and regulatory CEAC assessments. We suggest pan-Arctic temporal trend studies of CEACs in wildlife including the establishment of toxicity thresholds to evaluate their potential effects on populations, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.


Arctic Research Centre