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Web Date: December 1, 2011

Researchers Follow Pesticides’ Migration To The Arctic

Persistent Pollutants: Four-month cruise finds traces of endosulfan and five other widely used pesticides
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: pesticides, endosulfan, trifluralin, Arctic
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Arctic Pollutants
Researchers spent four months aboard the ice-breaker R/V Xuelong measuring pesticide levels in water and air.
Credit: Polar Research Institute of China, courtesy of Zhiyong Xie
20111201lnj1-Xuelong
 
Arctic Pollutants
Researchers spent four months aboard the ice-breaker R/V Xuelong measuring pesticide levels in water and air.
Credit: Polar Research Institute of China, courtesy of Zhiyong Xie
[+]Enlarge
Pollutant Trek
Seawater concentrations of six pesticides varied along a path from East Asia to the Arctic.
Credit: Environ. Sci. Technol.
20111201lnj1-es202655k-fig1b
 
Pollutant Trek
Seawater concentrations of six pesticides varied along a path from East Asia to the Arctic.
Credit: Environ. Sci. Technol.

Six pesticides used in high volumes for agriculture travel from farm fields to the Arctic, researchers report in Environmental Science & Technology (DOI: 10.1021/es202655k).

Every year, farmers in countries including India, China, Russia, the U.S., and some developing countries protect their crops using tens of thousands of tons of pesticides such as endosulfan. Researchers know that these compounds can travel long distances by air and water and reach the Arctic.

On a four-month research cruise from the East China Sea northward to the Chukchi Sea in the High Arctic, researchers led by Zhiyong Xie of the Helmholtz Center in Geesthacht, Germany, measured levels in air and water of the pesticides chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos, dacthal, dicofol, endosulfan, and trifluralin. The team developed new air sampling methods to detect some of these pesticides.

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, a transnational scientific working group that monitors pollutants, previously had tracked the insecticide endosulfan and the herbicide trifluralin. While some Arctic data previously existed on chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos, dacthal, and dicofol, the team collected the first measurements of the compounds in air and water levels along an ocean path from East Asia to the Arctic. This information should help researchers understand if the pollutants travel more readily by air or by sea, as well as how they degrade along the way.

The study suggests that these pesticides could cause environmental problems far from farms, says Xie. While the compounds degrade as they travel to the Arctic, he points out that once they are in the Arctic’s cold temperatures, the pesticides could become more stable and last longer. He thinks researchers next need to focus on the pollutants’ effects in Arctic ecosystems.

 
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