What’s Contaminating The Polar Bears?

Scientists from the United States and Canada have detected a wide array of new fluorinated and chlorinated substances. These substances place polar bears at an increased risk of contamination. So how did this happen in the first place, and what can be done about it?

At The Top

As the dominating force in the Arctic, polar bears rest at the top of the region’s food chain. While this has its benefits for the large creatures, it also means that they end up taking in the contaminants that their food has previously absorbed. To make matters worse, once in the system of a polar bear, the effects of these pollutants can even be made worse.

Some pollutants, known as Hallegonated contaminants, were initially discovered in polar bears in the 1970s and are a byproduct of humans. These contaminants have been found to negatively impact polar bears’ immune system.

New Chemicals

Hundreds of new contaminants have been found recently in the blood of polar bears. While they are now known, it is still a mystery what types of effects they potentially have on the animals.

While newly discovered contaminants do present the potential for new challenges, it is worth noting that these chemicals are not entirely new, they were simply discovered because scientists used a different approach in finding them.

No Need To Change

Researchers are not recommending residents of the Arctic cease their consumption of polar bear meat, however. “Right now we wouldn’t tell anyone to change anything because of these discoveries,” toxicologist Jon Martin stated. “The polar bears didn’t get more contaminated when we discovered this. They’ve been contaminated like this since the 1980s. We just didn’t know.”

This is important information for the arctic populations that rely on bear meat.

What’s The Source?

Scientists are saying that their next goal is to determine where these toxins are originating from. Studies done on multiple polar bear populations found that it is possible that these newly discovered contaminants are coming from Asia by way of the Bering Strait.

Researchers are also planning on looking into the effects of these chemicals spreading across the ecosystem.

Moving Forward

With the use of new and different approaches scientists have been able to detect new contaminants in the Arctic polar bear population. While these toxic chemicals have been around for some time and were simply not discovered until now, it is greatly important that they are now known to researchers so they can find ways to prevent their spread and hopefully keep the polar bear population healthy.

While scientists are limited in what they can do to combat the chemicals at this juncture, once more time has been spent studying the new chemicals, the options of how to prevent these dangerous toxins will hopefully arise.

Additionally, it is important to remember that possibly the greatest threat to these majestic creatures is the ever-increasing progress of climate change. With fewer resources for the bears to feed on and a slower rate of reproduction, this great animal’s future is certainly at risk. For now, scientists are working to help the polar bear in every way they can.