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Title: Coal burning leaves toxic heavy metal legacy in the Arctic

Abstract

Toxic heavy metals emitted by industrial activities in the midlatitudes are transported through the atmosphere and deposited in the polar regions; bioconcentration and biomagnification in the food chain mean that even low levels of atmospheric deposition may threaten human health and Arctic ecosystems. Little is known about sources and long-term trends of most heavy metals before approximate to 1980, when modern measurements began, although heavy-metal pollution in the Arctic was widespread during recent decades. Lacking detailed, long-term measurements until now, ecologists, health researchers, and policy makers generally have assumed that contamination was highest during the 1960s and 1970s peak of industrial activity in North America and Europe. We present continuous 1772-2003 monthly and annually averaged deposition records for highly toxic thallium, cadmium, and lead from a Greenland ice core showing that atmospheric deposition was much higher than expected in the early 20th century, with tenfold increases from preindustrial levels by the early 1900s that were two to five times higher than during recent decades. Tracer measurements indicate that coal burning in North America and Europe was the likely source of these metals in the Arctic after 1860. Although these results show that heavy-metal pollution in the North Atlantic sector ofmore » the Arctic is substantially lower today than a century ago, contamination of other sectors may be increasing because of the rapid coal-driven growth of Asian economies.« less

Authors:
;  [1]
  1. Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
21107503
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 105; Journal Issue: 34; Journal ID: ISSN 0027-8424
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
01 COAL, LIGNITE, AND PEAT; ARCTIC REGIONS; HEAVY METALS; LONG-RANGE TRANSPORT; EMISSION; AIR POLLUTION; DEPOSITION; POLLUTION SOURCES; THALLIUM; CADMIUM; LEAD; GREENLAND; BOREHOLES; ICE; TRACER TECHNIQUES; EUROPE; NORTH AMERICA; COMBUSTION; COAL

Citation Formats

McConnell, J.R., and Edwards, R. Coal burning leaves toxic heavy metal legacy in the Arctic. United States: N. p., 2008. Web. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803564105.
McConnell, J.R., & Edwards, R. Coal burning leaves toxic heavy metal legacy in the Arctic. United States. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803564105.
McConnell, J.R., and Edwards, R. Tue . "Coal burning leaves toxic heavy metal legacy in the Arctic". United States. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803564105.
@article{osti_21107503,
title = {Coal burning leaves toxic heavy metal legacy in the Arctic},
author = {McConnell, J.R. and Edwards, R.},
abstractNote = {Toxic heavy metals emitted by industrial activities in the midlatitudes are transported through the atmosphere and deposited in the polar regions; bioconcentration and biomagnification in the food chain mean that even low levels of atmospheric deposition may threaten human health and Arctic ecosystems. Little is known about sources and long-term trends of most heavy metals before approximate to 1980, when modern measurements began, although heavy-metal pollution in the Arctic was widespread during recent decades. Lacking detailed, long-term measurements until now, ecologists, health researchers, and policy makers generally have assumed that contamination was highest during the 1960s and 1970s peak of industrial activity in North America and Europe. We present continuous 1772-2003 monthly and annually averaged deposition records for highly toxic thallium, cadmium, and lead from a Greenland ice core showing that atmospheric deposition was much higher than expected in the early 20th century, with tenfold increases from preindustrial levels by the early 1900s that were two to five times higher than during recent decades. Tracer measurements indicate that coal burning in North America and Europe was the likely source of these metals in the Arctic after 1860. Although these results show that heavy-metal pollution in the North Atlantic sector of the Arctic is substantially lower today than a century ago, contamination of other sectors may be increasing because of the rapid coal-driven growth of Asian economies.},
doi = {10.1073/pnas.0803564105},
journal = {Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America},
issn = {0027-8424},
number = 34,
volume = 105,
place = {United States},
year = {2008},
month = {8}
}