Far-flung Greenland doesn’t seem like it would be a danger zone for hazardous chemicals, but researchers from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program have documented “unacceptable levels” of environmental toxics in the nation’s Inuit population. The toxics include persistent organic pollutants, lead, cadmium, mercury, and other hazardous chemicals that are carried by wind and ocean currents to the north and accumulate in animals high on the food chain, such as polar bears, seals, and whales — which make up the traditional diet of Inuits in the region. Over time, eating the contaminated flesh can cause birth defects, reduced fertility, and genetic damage in humans. In some areas, 100 percent of the population had toxic levels high enough to cause concern, and 30 percent of those tested were above the “level of action” — the threshold at which researchers recommend that people change their food intake. Levels that high have never been recorded elsewhere.
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