Climate change, which are accompanied by the release of toxic substances permafrost can lead to a significant increase of mercury and its compounds in Arctic animals and threatens the region's ecosystem, according to a report prepared by the program AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme — Programme of the Arctic Council Monitoring and Evaluation).
"The increased recently mercury in Arctic wildlife may be the first evidence of climate change, affecting the rate of accumulation of this dangerous metal. Moreover, world outlook for mercury emissions odds with reality," — noted in a statement distributed by the authors of the report, which AMAP presented at the conference in Copenhagen.
Scientists point out that in recent years the level of mercury emissions in Asia, particularly in China grew rapidly, but in Europe, North America and Russia is also rapidly declining. Therefore, the total "mercury balance" changed little. But the content of mercury in Arctic wildlife representatives, especially in Canada and Greenland, and is still growing.
"The reason to look at climate change as global warming melts the permafrost, and large amounts of toxic compounds, concluded in frozen soil and plants into the environment. Climate change may be also responsible for the shift of the chemical equilibrium of mercury in nature toward the formation of its more toxic form — methylmercury, "- the scientists say.
Mercury climbs the food chain
In some areas of the Arctic, scientists have recorded high levels of mercury in polar bears, seals, narwhals, belugas, several species of birds and other local wildlife. The main source of mercury emissions from manufacturing, which for 150 years were brought from all over the world in the Arctic region on air currents, ocean currents and rivers and accumulating in seaweed.
Methylmercury can accumulate in the muscles and internal organs of animals and people, such as the kidneys and liver, but the main damage it causes the brain tissue, the researchers note.
"The concentration of mercury has been steadily growing as we move up the food chain, which means that marine mammals and people standing on top of the chain, are most affected," — said in a statement.
Thus, the mercury threatens the health of the inhabitants of the coasts of Canada, Greenland, and northern Europe, an important part of the diet of which are marine animals and birds. "Particular risk pregnant and lactating women and young children, because mercury can disrupt fetal development and adversely affect the nervous and immune systems of the body," — they note.
Coal plants poison mercury
Total emissions of mercury can also grow. Its main source — the burning of coal for electricity generation. If the level of emissions in China and other Asian countries will continue to grow at the same rate, in 2020 the global emissions of anthropogenic mercury will rise by 25% in comparison with 2005.
Currently, with the assistance of UNEP A draft global agreement to limit mercury pollution from emissions into the air and out of the production of products containing mercury.