Toxic Forever Chemicals Found in Alarming Levels in Norwegian Arctic Ice

An Oxford University-led study has discovered toxic levels of PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” in the ice around Svalbard, Norway. These chemicals, once the ice melts, can harm the region’s wildlife and ecosystems, such as the Arctic fjords and tundra, posing a risk to the entire food web.

The Dangers of PFAS

PFAS refers to a class of around 12,000 chemicals that are often found in consumer products that resist water, heat, or stains. These chemicals are called “forever chemicals” as they do not break down over time and are linked to several diseases, including cancer and liver disease. High levels of PFAS have been found in the polar bear’s bloodstream, as per the report. China to Build Ground Station in Antarctica to Support Ocean Monitoring Satellites.

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The levels of PFAS in the ice were higher than the United States advisory drinking water limits, which is cause for concern. “As a polar bear, you have exposure to toxic man-made chemicals, and stresses from a changing habitat,” says Dr William Hartz, a lead author on the study.

The Effect of Climate Change

The study also found that the “doubling up effect” on animals as climate changes and ice melts is becoming a growing concern in Svalbard, as the region has been warming up faster than the world average. High levels of TFA, a refrigeration byproduct caused by hydrofluoroolefin (HFOs), were also found. HFOs are greenhouse gasses and, once released, can turn into TFA, which is highly mobile and can move through the atmosphere to anywhere in the world.

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While TFA is said to be less toxic compared to several other PFAS, the authors believe its limited knowledge needs addressing, as no one is fully aware of the damage these compounds might be causing to the environment. The study highlights the urgent need for further research and actions to mitigate the impact of PFAS and TFA on the Arctic and its wildlife.

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