A Dung Deal
Toxic pollution in Arctic likely caused by contaminated bird poop
Native residents of northern Arctic regions are ridden with toxic chemicals — some of the highest body concentrations in the world — and new research has uncovered an unlikely culprit: guano, or as we prefer to call it, bird dookie. Scientists have long assumed that the industrial world’s toxic effluents were carried northward on wind and water currents, but that doesn’t explain why they concentrate in particular hotspots. A new study in the journal Science places the blame on migratory birds, which eat chemical-ridden food and poop chemical-ridden poop, which then moves up through the Arctic food chain. The researchers hope that their discovery will allow Native populations to resume eating traditional foods — many had moved to new diets, escaping high toxin concentrations but running headlong into Type II diabetes and other ailments — by choosing to gather them in (relatively) cleaner areas. But the real long-term solution, say activists, is to end the use of the toxic chemicals — DDT, mercury, and several long-lasting chlorinated pollutants.