Industrial chemicals making polar bears poorly

Polar bears from Greenland are becoming ill because of chemicals which make their way from the industrialised world to the Arctic via air and sea currents, according to a new report. After a decade-long study, researchers at Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen claim animals at the top of the food chain are the worst affected.

“The accumulated industrial chemicals cause diseases in the polar bears which do not lead to their immediate deaths,” said Christian Sonne, Senior Scientist at Aarhus University. “On the other hand, the toxins damage the bones and organs of the polar bears, their immune systems and not least their reproductive systems. However, the harm suffered by the population of polar bears in eastern Greenland is not yet fully understood.”

The researchers also fed the same environmental toxins to Greenlandic sled-dogs and Arctic foxes, two species which are genetically similar to polar bears and are also at the top of the food chain. Those which were exposed to the chemicals were found to have suffered psychical damage, while those in the control group had not.