Report: Persistent contaminants found in Alaska's Arctic

Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new report by a group of federal and state agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations, says contaminants and pollutants are continuing to show up in Alaska's Arctic.

Pesticides, industrial chemicals and industrial waste have been found at elevated levels in air, water, ice and sediment around Alaska's northern tier, the report says.

These pollutants are then concentrated in the fatty tissues and organs of fish and wildlife. As they get passed along the food web, they pose risks to indigenous peoples who eat a traditional diet that includes whales, seals, walrus, fish and caribou, according to the report.

The pollutants can travel for thousands of miles to northern Alaska. Dioxins from the Lower 48 and Mexico have been found in the Arctic, according to Lisa Guide of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

''The Department of the Interior has taken a keen interest in this issue because of our responsibility to manage subsistence hunting and fishing on federal lands in Alaska and our trust responsibility toward Alaska Native tribes,'' said Marilyn Heiman, the department's top official in Alaska. ''We cannot ignore the warning signs we're seeing in some studies of fish and wildlife. Increased research and monitoring, partnerships and international actions are key to protecting subsistence foods and eliminating these contaminants at the source.''

The report will be presented by the state of Alaska this week, during a meeting of the Arctic Council at Barrow. The council is made up of countries bordering the Arctic -- the United States, Canada, Greenland and Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Russia.

The United States is working with 120 other nations on a treaty that would ban 12 of the most serious persistent organic pollutants. The last negotiating session for the International POPs Treaty is set for December in South Africa.

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