Thursday, February 24, 2011

Even Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are Affected by Climate Change

I have spoken about the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in the past.  The Convention is an international effort to reduce emissions of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).  But now a new report of the UNEP/AMAP expert group,‘’Climate change and POPs: Predicting the Impacts,’’"provides a comprehensive view of the complex inter-linkages between climate and POPs."

The report suggests that rising temperatures could result in increased emissions from both primary and secondary sources of POPs.  This would have the effect of offsetting some of the efforts undertaken to reduce emissions under the convention.  In other words, take away all the gains made to eliminate POPs in the environment.  Because one of the major factors important in classifying POPs is their ability to transport long ranges, e.g., emissions in Italy end up in polar bears in the Arctic, changes to the overall climate could impact atmospheric and oceanic transport of these very persistent and often bioaccumulative environmental pollutants. Melting of both land and sea ice could further impact distribution.  And since many POPs build up in the fat reserves of Arctic animals like bears, whales and fish, disruptions in normal feeding patterns could result in re-mobilizing the chemicals into metabolic pathways, with toxic effects.

The report concludes that there is the potential for significant climate-induced changes in relation to future releases of POPs into the environment, their long-range transport and environmental fate, and human and environmental exposure, and "subsequently leading to higher health risks for both human populations and the environment."

The report can be downloaded by chapter or as a full report in PDF format:

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