Climate Change and Contaminants: Implications and Potential Impacts

November 24, 2010
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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Research shows that global climate change may be exacerbating contamination from persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic. Temperatures in the Arctic are warming five to 10 times faster than elsewhere in the world. Scientists forecast that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free by 2040, with profound effects on ice-dependent species. Increasing storm surges, melting permafrost, and sea ice disappearance are among the most dramatic effects of climate warming. As the climate warms, contaminants contained in permafrost, glaciers and sea ice release into the surrounding environment. Climate change causes more rapid dispersal of contaminants into freshwater and marine environments, thus more directly affecting the health of fish and marine mammals that serve as the primary traditional foods for northern Indigenous peoples.

Featured Speakers

Andrew P. Gilman, BSc, MSc, PhD, Research Fellow at the University of Ottawa Population Health Institute. Dr. Gilman is an international expert in risk assessment and developing regional and global initiatives to control the long-range transport of environmental contaminants.

Bjorn Munro Jenssen, PhD, professor of ecotoxicology and head of the department of biology at Norwegian University of Science and Technology - Trondheim (NTNU). Dr. Jenssen's research focuses on the effects of environmental pollutants on the physiology and behaviour of animals, particularly the effects of environmental pollutants on the endocrine system.

Dr. Gilman and Dr. Jenssen are part of a writing team of international experts currently preparing a document for the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on recent findings related to the potential combined effects of climate change and persistent organic pollutants on wildlife and human populations. They will discuss how climate change will alter releases, transport, and degradation and deposition of pollutants and how this may affect exposures, human health, and environmental health.