Climate Change and the Release of Contaminants in the Arctic: Current Research and Potential Health Effects

October 19, 2015
10:00 am US Eastern Time

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Melting ice, glaciers, and thawing permafrost have the potential to result in higher exposures to harmful persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic. As the climate warms, contaminants that have been trapped in permafrost, glaciers, and sea ice release into surrounding freshwater and marine environments. Once remobilized, these contaminants (including PCBs and mercury) enter the food chain and may be consumed by fish and marine mammals, and in turn by the northern Indigenous peoples who rely on these animals for traditional foods. On this call we explore sources of POPs in the Arctic, current research on how contaminant levels are changing, and potential health effects.

Featured Speakers

James E. Berner has practiced medicine in the Alaska Native health system since 1974. He has been in the Human Health Advisory Group of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, since 1999. He was co-lead author of “Human Health”, Chapter 15 in the 2005 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. He was appointed in 2005-2008 to the National Academy of Sciences Polar Research Board. He is certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, and is the Senior Director for Science in the Division of Community Health, of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Lars-Otto Reiersen is a marine biologist by training, now working as an environmental scientist in Norway. He has served as the Executive Secretary for the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) for over two decades. AMAP advises the governments of eight Arctic countries on issues relating to threats to the region from pollution. AMAP has an integrated monitoring programme in operation and has produced several comprehensive scientific assessments on the State of the Arctic Environment regarding pollution and climate change on Arctic ecosystems and humans. For more information see www.amap.no

Merle Apassingok graduated from the John Apangalook Memorial High School at Gambell, Ak in 1984. He participated in an international academic program as a junior and senior in which some of the subjects were Global Warming, radioactive waste, genetic engineering and overcrowding in prisons. He served 22 years as a board member for Sivuqaq Inc., a state chartered for profit village corporation. Merle and his wife Rhona have been working for Bering Air, a commuter airline based out of Nome Alaska since June of 2000. Providing weather reports and observations to the airline are some of the duties called for as a village agent. Merle has been hunting since as a child and is currently a registered whaling captain in the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.

Vi Waghiyi, Environmental Health and Justice Program Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics

The call was hosted by the CHE-AK Partnership, lasted for one hour and was recorded for archival purposes.