Thursday, December 9, 2010

UN report warns of deadly pollutants from glaciers

It is a problem in all parts of the world – pollutants do not respect borders. They travel thousands of miles and they continue to build'

Pollutants have travelled long distances and become trapped in ice in glaciers and ice sheets. But as the ice melts, or when temperatures go up, they are released back into the seas and atmosphere.

The UN study found that levels of POPs measured in breast milk and blood were rising in parts of the world.

Achim Steiner, the executive director of UNEP said freak weather events were releasing stockpiles of dangerous pesticides and other pollutants.

Higher temperatures can also make seals, whales and polar bars more vulnerable to pollutants.

Higher temperatures were likely to increase the spread of malaria – and increase the use of sprays such as DDT which are harmful to people.

Melting glaciers are releasing cancer-causing pollutants into the air and oceans. The long-lasting chemicals get into the food chain and build up in people's bodies - triggering tumours, heart disease and infertility.

The flow of pollutants into the lake peaked in the 1970s, mainly due to the production of plastics, electronics, pesticides and fragrances. The levels declined during the 1980s and 1990s when people realised that these compounds were toxic and they were banned.

Many toxic chemicals are still used in plastics and electronic equipment, such as brominated flame retardants. These could represent the next generation's problem: "They are deposited on glaciers today and will reappear in our lakes in a few decades."

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