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Persistent Organic Pollutants In The Environment

2788 words - 11 pages

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) categorize a vast assemblage of environmentally toxic compounds and have received notoriety in recent decades for their lingering presence within an ecosystem. Most POPs are lipophilic and enabling them to bioaccumulate within an ecosystem which may potentially cause long lasting damage as they are transferred through consumption of an organism’s fat content (Ritter et al. 1995). The chemical stability of POPs allows these substances to persist in an ecosystem for many years either in soils or within animal tissue (Ritter et al. 1995). The recent detection of POPs in Arctic regions has raised concern over the severity these toxins may pose to Northern ecosystems (Letcher et al. 2010). Monitoring the amount and rate that POPs are being leeched back into the North is crucial in understanding the extent of ecosystem damage as well as identifying areas of further research. Schmid et al. (2011) found that glacial fed lakes contain higher POP levels compared to non-glacial fed ones demonstrating the potential for reintroduction of these pollutants back into the ecosystem. Another study by Blais et al. (2001) produced similar results as they detected higher levels of POPs in glacial streams compared to water from valley streams and precipitation. Blais et al. also believes free suspending POPs in glacial water are more prevalent because of the low organic material in these waters; consequently enabling them to travel further before being caught by soil or organic material.
The POPs in focus for this study are chlordane, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Chlordane, DDT, and PCBs have all been widely banned or reduced globally since the later quarter of the twentieth century, although still present and active in the environment (Donald et al. 1999). A recent study by Geisz et al. (2013) found evidence of DDT accumulation in Antarctic penguins due to pollutant release from increasing ice melt. In relevance to the Northern Hemisphere, Norstrom’s et al. study in 1994 found elevated levels of POPs in aquatic mammals at various Arctic locations. Since all of these toxic POPs can accumulate in an organism’s fat content, its biomagnification and cascading effect in an ecosystem potentially poses a serious problem. Northern wildlife may be at risk if higher levels of POPs are entering the environment through glacial melt water.
DDT achieved its peak in popularity by way of its application as an insecticide in the 1940s, particularly to prevent insect vectored diseases like malaria and typhus (Ritter et al. 1995). In Ritter’s et al. (1995) assessment report on POPs, they state at high concentrations DDT is generally lethal to most invertebrates; however it is able to persist at lower concentrations causing a variety developmental, immunological, and reproductive impairments. DDTs metabolites, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane...

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