A new doctoral thesis has shown that industrial chemicals are making their way north to the Arctic from the industrialised world via air and sea currents, where they are then absorbed by the sea’s food chains, of which the polar bear is at the top.
“The accumulated industrial chemicals cause diseases in the polar bears which do not lead to their immediate deaths,” said Christian Sonne, Senior Scientist at Aarhus University, defends his doctoral thesis at LIFE – Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen. “On the other hand, the toxins damage the bones and organs of the polar bears, their immune systems and not least their reproductive systems. However, the harm suffered by the population of polar bears in eastern Greenland is not yet fully understood.”
The damage that is being seen in the polar bears after 10 years of careful study by researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Aarhus University are also being seen in Arctic foxes and Greenlandic sled-dogs which were fed environmental toxins; both animals are at the top of the food chain, and are genetically very similar to the polar bear.
Unsurprisingly, the animals in the control groups were not found to have any of the contaminants in their systems.