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A screening-level approach to quantifying risk from glacial release of organochlorine pollutants in the Alaskan Arctic

Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology (2018) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Widespread distribution of atmospherically mobilized organochlorine pollutants (OCPs) has been documented throughout the Arctic. A fraction of these OCPs have become entrained in glacial ice, and during melting, they can be released into downstream reservoirs. Though this remobilization is known, an assessment of risk from glacial meltwater to collocated human communities in the Arctic, including Alaska, had not been accomplished. Here, we use a screening-level risk assessment model for glacial watersheds, based on US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methodology, which we apply to the glaciated Jarvis Creek watershed of interior Alaska. Model results indicate that even with low levels of OCPs in glacial meltwater, high fish consumption by subsistence communities in the area increases the risk of cancer and hazard impacts above acceptable limits. Though this model is specific to one watershed, our results imply that further investigation of an increasing OCP signal in glacial meltwater and fish throughout the North American Arctic is warranted.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the team that contributed immeasurably to this work, including Glenn Rice from the EPA, who provided valuable guidance and feedback during the entire process. Orville Huntington the Wildlife and Parks Director for the Tanana Chiefs Conference provided important insight and guidance. We thank the field team in Alaska including CRREL and Tom Douglas, Ice Drilling and Design Operations, Tiffany Gatesman, Robert Hawley’s group at Dartmouth and Christopher Gerbi’s group at University of Maine. KR Miner was supported by the Switzer Foundation, SMART Scholarship and NSF grant DGE- 1144423.

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Affiliations

  1. Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME, 04469, USA

    • K. R. Miner
    • , K. J. Kreutz
    •  & S. Campbell
  2. ERDC-Geospatial Research Laboratory, Alexandria, VA, 22315, USA

    • K. R. Miner
  3. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maine, Orono, ME, 04469, USA

    • S. Jain
  4. Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA

    • S. Campbell
  5. Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC), University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA

    • A. Liljedahl

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to K. R. Miner.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-018-0100-7