Persistent organic pollutants used in industry are changing the genitals and bones of polar bears in East Greenland, says a Danish wildlife veterinarian and toxicologist.
"Shrinking balls and degraded bones," linked to the presence of pesticides and flame retardants in the Arctic, are likely to affect the animals' fertility and reproductive success, said Christian Sonne at last week's conference on Arctic climate change and pollution in Copenhagen.
These impacts are "not just" affecting polar bears, said Sonne who works at the National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark.
People, as well as other animals, in Canada's Arctic may also be at risk of similar effects from these pollutants, although the toxic "cocktail" becomes somewhat lower as you head west from Greenland across the Arctic region, he said.
Polar bears from East Greenland are among the most polluted species in the Arctic because their diet depends on contaminant-loaded blubber from ringed and bearded seals.
Add a warming climate to this mix, and the combined effect may be disastrous for the survival of the species.
Sonne's latest research shows East Greenland polar bear bones are getting weaker.
For his study he looked at a wide sample of polar bears from 1983 to 2001 and then went to museums to analyze samples from polar bears captured as far back as 120 years ago.
Bone weakness reveals the amount of stress that an organism experiences, Sonne said.
In East Greenland, that stress can be related to contaminants, temperature, precipitation and decreasing sea ice.
Sonne's study established a link between bone density and the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals used in industry.
Because polar bears are highly adapted to their Arctic environment, they're also highly vulnerable to environmental changes.
This makes them an "excellent global thermometer" for showing environmental changes, he said.
The bone density decrease was severe in some of the adult male polar bears he studied. In fact, their .......
Read more: http://new.canada.com/health/Pollutants+taking+toll+polar+bears+researchers/4751619/story.html#ixzz1LxGBJSaw
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