NOSB paper

This paper was written as part of the 2004 Alaska Ocean Sciences Bowl high school competition. The conclusions in this report are solely those of the student authors.

Persistent Organic Pollutants in Alaskan Consumers

Authors

Sierra Williams
Jon Buchholz
Krystin Habighorst
Will Newberry

 

Team POPCAN
Soldotna High School
425 W. Marydale Ave.
Soldotna, AK 99669


Soldotna Team POPCAN  photo

Abstract

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are an extreme hazard to Alaska. These chemicals are twelve of the most dangerous toxins to be exposed to any environment. Even though the United States has banned POPs, the ability of POPs to migrate from other countries makes them an issue thousands of miles away from the source. Not only do POPs travel from place to place, but they also biomagnify through the trophic system. They affect humans and other mammals in a variety of ways, from immunosuppression to neurological dysfunctions. Native Alaskans are the most drastically affected because they are dependent upon subsistence foods, many of which are high in fat and therefore generally high in POPs.

The way to remedy this problem is through a prevention and cure method. In order prevent POPs from leaking into the environment, drastic government action needs to be taken through avenues like banning, treaties, and using alternative methods to reduce or eliminate the use and production of POPs. To cure the problem, a diet needs to be mandated for the natives. In order to avoid diseases like diabetes, they need to continue eating high-fat animals like seals. The pros and cons of this situation need to be observed and solved. A research center for testing POPs in the natives needs to be set up in order to discover who is most affected by these chemicals. This center would also discover the most viable solution for the dietary needs of the Alaskan Natives on Adak Island.

Definition of Persistent Organic Pollutants

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are carbon-based chemical compounds. POPs are primarily products and by-products of human industry. As the name suggests, they are persistent in the environment, resisting degradation through natural processes (Tesar, 2000). They have the ability to accumulate through the food web and to be transported long distances. Toxins as pesticides are able to directly kill or alter an organism. All the common pesticides share the property of blocking a vital metabolic process of the organism to which they are toxic (UNEP/GPA, 2001). The most hazardous of these pollutants are known as the "Dirty Dozen."

Aldrin is a pesticide used to kill termites and grasshoppers in soils, and has killed a number of shorebirds, and waterfowl that either ate animals that had eaten crops on which aldrin was used or that ate the crop themselves. For humans, the estimated fatal dose for an adult male is about five grams, but its use has been restricted or banned in many countries (UNEP, 2001).

Chlordane is also used to control termites in soils and is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide on a range of agricultural crops. Tests have shown that it can kill organisms like mallard ducks and pink shrimp. Exposure to humans mainly occurs through the air. Chlordane is also banned or severely restricted in several countries (UNEP, 2001).

Dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) is perhaps the most infamous of the POPs. It was mainly used during and after World War II to protect soldiers and civilians from diseases such as malaria and typhus. In some countries it is still being used to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Although DDT has been banned or restricted, it can still be found in food all over the world (UNEP, 2001).

Dieldrin is most often used to control termites and textile pests, but has served as a control for insect-borne diseases and insects living in agricultural soils. It is highly toxic to animals that live in the water. The residues of dieldrin have not only been found in air, water, soil, but also in living organisms, including humans. Because dieldrin is a toxic pesticide and has been detected in pasteurized milk, it has been banned and restricted in several countries (UNEP, 2001).

Dioxins are chemicals that are produced unintentionally because of incomplete combustion. They are also produced during the manufacture of pesticides and other chlorinated substances. They come from the burning of hospital waste, municipal waste, hazardous waste, automobile emissions, peat, coal, and wood. Although fish die shortly after the intake of dioxins, humans are mostly affected by changes in the body's systems. Humans are exposed to dioxins mainly through meat (UNEP, 2001).

Furans are compounds that are produced similarly to dioxins. Most of their production occurs during the burning of different toxic wastes, but can also be manufactured during the production of PCBs. The 135 different types of furans are structurally similar to dioxins, and their toxicity varies. However, furans come from burning garbage and it is almost impossible for the economy to ban or restrict the burning (UNEP, 2001).

Endrin is an insecticide that is also used to control rodents. It is sprayed on the leaves of cotton and grain crops. The primary exposure to humans is through food, although its dietary intake estimates are below the limits deemed safe by world health authorities (UNEP, 2001).

Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) kills fungi that affect food crops and was widely used to control wheat bunt from 1954 to 1959. It is a manufactured byproduct of certain industrial chemicals. HCBs can be passed to an infant through the placenta and through breast milk. They are highly toxic to humans and can kill. Symptoms of exposure to HCBs include metabolic disorders, colic, and debilitation (UNEP, 2001).

Heptachlor is primarily used to kill soil insects such as grasshoppers and malaria-carrying mosquitoes. It is believed to be responsible for the decline of several United States wild bird populations, including American kestrels. Tests have also shown that lower concentration exposure causes behavioral changes and reduced reproductive success in rats and rabbits. The major exposure source of heptachlor to humans is food, but it is banned or is severely restricted in various countries (UNEP, 2001).

Mirex is an insecticide that is mainly used to combat different types of ants and termites. Another use is as a fire retardant in plastics, rubber, and electrical goods. Direct human exposure to mirex does not appear to cause injury, but studies on laboratory animals have caused it to be classified as a possible human carcinogen. It is proven to be toxic to a number of plant species, fish and crustaceans. Mirex is considered one of the most constant and persistent of POPs since it has a half-life of 10 years, but has been banned from most countries (UNEP, 2001).

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are compounds that are used in industry as heat exchange fluids, in electrical transformers and capacitors, and as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics. Although only 13 out of the 209 different types of PCBs have a dioxin-like toxicity, they are generally highly toxic. For this reason, PCBs have been banned in several countries (UNEP, 2001).

Toxaphene is an insecticide that is used on cotton, cereal grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and to control ticks and mites in livestock. The exposure to humans mainly occurs through food. Toxaphenes were the most widely used pesticide in the US by 1975, but have now been banned in 37 countries and severely restricted in its use in 11 countries (UNEP, 2001).

POP Classifications

There are three types of persistant organic pollutants. These classifications are based on how the POP enters the enviornment. They are not the only classifications, but are the most widely used.

Insecticides are the first POP classification. Insecticides are purposely spread over the land to kill insects. Most of these were banned in the 70's, but have still been used over the years in third world countries. Because these POPs are still in use, they continue to flow through organisms and the environment from places like Russian to Alaskan villages (World Resource Institue, 2002).

Industrial chemicals never intended for dispersal can also leak into the environment. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are the best-known example; other compounds include polychlorinated naphthalenes (PCNs), chloroparaffins and brominated flame-retardants. The PCBs have been gradually banned in many countries (World Resource Institute, 2002).

The third category of persistent organic pollutants occur mainly as by-products of various manufacturing or combustive processes. These include hexachlorobenzene (HCB), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxins. To a limited extent, many of these compounds can also be formed naturally, but their uses for this purpose has declined substantially (World Resource Institute, 2002).

POP Transferability

POPs found in the Arctic are at levels too high to be caused by natural releases. Most of these POPs do not originate in the Arctic. For a number of years, the use of some POPs has been prohibited in the United States, Canada, and several European nations. However, these contaminants are able to travel long distances from areas where they are still used, such as Russia (Ryan, 2003). Pollutants discharged from southern urban, agricultural, and industrial regions also contribute to noteworthy contamination of the Arctic. Copious pollution sources from within the Arctic itself, including oil and gas installations, nuclear waste dumps and storage sites are also to blame (Sea Web, 2003). POPs are transported to the Arctic by large-scale air and water currents, and some migratory species. Contaminants from industrial, agricultural, and other sources throughout the world are moved into Alaska's waters, sea ice, and land by air-currents (Ryan, 2003). Arctic rivers also shift contaminants from more southern regions (Sea Web, 2003).

These contaminants, which circulate around the globe and northward in air and ocean currents, accumulate in the cold Arctic environment, which serves as a sink or settling area for the toxins. This transfer occurs over different time periods depending on the type of contaminant. Aerosols and minute particles travel rapidly, varying from days to weeks. Volatile and semi-volatile compounds that move as gases may take many years. In warm temperatures, chemicals are volatile, but when temperatures drop they condense onto land and water. The contaminant gradually moves northward with steady wind and current patterns. This process continues until it reaches the colder Arctic sink. POPs remain in Arctic waters, sea ice, and land for long periods of time. They break down very slowly, because of the colder climate (Ryan, 2003). Despite recent reductions in global production, it is anticipated that high levels of certain contaminants in the Arctic environment will endure for decades (Sea Web, 2003).

Information of this process has caused alarm that a large portion of the total global production of these toxins still may be circulating northward (Sea Web, 2003). Contaminants in the Arctic have become part of the food chain and accumulate in a variety of resident and migratory fish and wildlife species. Migratory species generally travel to the Arctic in the summer and spend the winter in lower latitudes. Migratory birds often have 100 times higher concentrations of POPs compared to birds that do not migrate. The contamination of these animals thus poses a concern for all of America, not just Alaska (Ryan, 2003).

Biomagnification

POPs like PCB, DDT and mirex impact an ecosystem's living environment in a detrimental manner. These toxins have the capability to initiate the development of cancer and other tumors in exposed animals. They can also cause the reproductive system, nervous system, immune system and the early stages of development to malfunction. However, it is difficult to discern what exactly these different toxins do to organisms, since they may aggravate or counteract each other. The concentration of the substances causes the effects to vary in different ways and locations (Paterson, 2002).

Another factor that contributes to how an organism is affected is its physical state, such as age, strength and immune system. Each species is affected differently because there is a large variation in population and body size. Normally organisms higher on the trophic level have higher concentrations of POPs because organisms can't break down the chemical toxins. Because of this, there is a huge accumulation of the toxins in their fatty tissues. The more POPs an organism is exposed to, the more it stores in its tissues, and later passes on to its offspring. The offspring will inevitably have even higher concentrations of the toxins than the parent. This accumulative process of passing POPs up the food chain from trophic level to trophic level is called biomagnification. The higher an organism is in the food chain, the higher its contaminant concentration (UNEP/GPA, 2001).

The toxins accumulate about ten times in every step of the food chain. Animals, especially in polar zones, store fat to protect themselves against the cold weather. Because of this, animals that live in colder climates are even more affected since the toxins are stored in their high levels of excess fat (Paterson, 2001). A predators fat tissues most often become contaminated by feeding on contaminated prey, although an animal also can receive POPs from their mother's milk. Breast milk contains a high concentration of fat and therefore a high concentration of toxins. This is especially harmful because the newborn young will have weak bodies and immune systems. Offspring are also directly contaminated when the body develops in an infected mother's womb. Inheriting POPs from the previous generation is also an example of bioaccumulation (UNEP/GPA, 2001).

POPs in Marine Mammals

High levels of POPs have been found in many marine mammals, putting both them and the humans who consume them at risk. (Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 2002). POPs concentrate in fatty tissue, like blubber, and a single polar bear can consume 100 pounds of blubber - mostly from seals - at one sitting. In addition, most animals can't break down the chemicals, so they build up and increase 10 times at each step in the food chain. Because they are apex predators, polar bears receive an extremely intense concentration of POPs (Onion, 2003).

Other animals of the Arctic are also at risk because of POPs. Sea otters from Adak Island on the Aleutian chain have DDT concentrations 36 times higher than sea otters from warmer climates (Ryan, 2000). In a recent Alaskan study of the biological effects of contaminants, POPs were also found in northern fur seals. Seals are in a central position on the food chain as they are an important subsistence food and play a large role in contaminant transport (Chary 2000). The study showed that diminished immune function in the seal pups was traced to higher contaminant levels (Ryan, 2000). The northern fur seal pup reproduction on St. Paul Island experienced a decline of seven percent from 1978-1983, and on St. George Island pup production declined 4.7 percent per year from 1970 until 1994 (Chary 2000). Fur seal pups are exposed to these contaminants primarily through suckling and lactation. This transfer of high concentrations of contaminants could threaten the critical early development of fur seal pups (Chary, 2000).

A study on the transfer of organochlorines through the placenta and lactation was done on concentrations of contaminants in the blubber of beluga whales. The female beluga's concentrations decreased as they got older, and the fetuses had about 10 percent higher concentration than its mother did. The males, who have no way to rid themselves of their contaminants, increase their concentrations with age (Chary, 2000).

Exposure

There are three main types of human exposure to POPs. High-dose acute exposure typically results from accidental fires or explosions involving electrical capacitors, but can also result from high dose food contamination. Mid-level chronic exposure is predominantly due to occupational exposure and, in some cases, to the proximity of environmental storage sites, or high consumption of a POP-contaminated dietary source, such as fish or other marine animals. Chronic, low-dose exposure is characteristic for the general population worldwide as a consequence of the existing global background levels of POPs with variations due to diet, geography, and level of industrial pollution. Low level and population-wide effects are more difficult to study. People are exposed to multiple POPs during their lifetime and most people today carry detectable levels of a number of POPs in their body (UNEP/GPA, 2001).

Health Effects

Certain POPs have the capability to affect enzymes that are involved in the biosynthesis of heme in the blood. This may lead to a disease called porphyria, which may cause seizures and other complications in the neuromuscular system (AMAP, 1997).

Exposure to POPs has also been known to affect vitamin A metabolism. This lack of activity may cause an inclination towards infection and cancer. Another result may be reproductive disorders, skin lesions and disturbance in growth and development (Brouwer et al, 1989).

Specific POPs, mainly chlorinated hydrocarbons, can also negatively impact the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland secretes epinephrine, the "fight or flight" hormone necessary to many organisms' survival. If the creatures no longer had this capability, they would be at an extreme disadvantage in their ability to survive (Kuiken et al, 1993).

POPs related to cancer tend to be greater in regards to the promotion rather than the induction of cancer. Bidleman et al. (1997) state that most POPs are regarded as cancer promoters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared TCDD (2,3,7,8- Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin) the highest testing synthetic carcinogen for potency in 1985. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified the deadly dioxin as a known human carcinogen (WFPHA, 2000).

Many POPs can cause drastic inhibiting affects to the immune system. In some cases, the pollutants have the capability to disrupt the body's ability to produce such helpful entities as antibodies and T-cells, both of which fight against tumors and viruses (Bidleman et al. 1997). Since POPs are immunosuppressive, AIDS and cancer patients who are taking immunosuppressive drugs are severely at risk. Dioxins suppress both the cell-mediated and humoral responses of the immune system, which suggests that these POPs have the capability to adversely affect both innate and acquired immunities. PCBs that enter the body cause infection rate to increase, as exposure to PCBs impairs immune response to infection (WFPHA, 2000).

POPs have the capability to harm the nervous system through several different avenues. Acute exposure to aldrin and dieldrin can create symptoms such as severe seizures, headaches, nausea, anorexia, muscles twitching and psychological illnesses. They are suspected to induce peripheral neuropathy and can result in Parkinson's disease. Exposure to endrin shows similar symptoms, with the addition of possible death. Abnormal balance, reduction in reaction time and verbal recall, and slowing of motor speeds are results of chlordane poisoning. DDT can also cause nausea and headaches, plus irritation of mucous membranes, tremors, and other nervous system abnormalities. The POP heptachlor often causes hyperexcitation of the central nervous system, plus cerebrovascular disease, consequentially leading to death. When exposed to PCBs, fetuses undergo neural and developmental changes, resulting in lower psychomotor scores and reduction in short-term memory and special learning (WFPHA, 2000).

POPs may affect reproductive development through several different avenues. Chemicals such as DDT, specific dioxins and PCBs have the capability to diminish the survival of offspring, decrease fertility and disrupt reproductive function and reproductive cycles (Han & Stone, 2001). If pregnant females are exposed to POPs, then the embryo or fetus mortality rates increase exponentially. Sex hormone levels are abnormal, sperm production is reduced, and total reproductive failure is often imminent (Swain et al, 1992). There has also been evidence that gene expression can be altered, which may indicate that POPs have the ability to detrimentally affect liver function, impede fetal ovarian development, and disrupt carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism (Kushtia, 2001). Dioxins and furans are known to reduce the level of testosterone in males. Fetuses exposed to dioxins through the placenta and babies through breast milk exhibit dysfunctional muscle reflexes and hypothalamic/pituitary/thyroid system failure. Infants similarly exposed to HCBs often will contract arthritis, plus will experience acute illnesses and rashes (WFPHA, 2000).

POPs in Alaskan Natives

Alaskan Aleutian villages are being exposed to extreme POP levels. In the year 2000, villagers of five Aleutian villages took blood tests for POPs. Results of the blood samples showed higher than normal contamination levels (Gofman, 2003). Canadian studies have shown that PCB concentrations in the blood of adult Inuits is roughly seven times higher than in other North American adult populations (Ryan, 2000).

The villagers' exposure is mainly linked to their consumption of subsistence foods (Gofman, 2003). Traditional Alaska Native lifestyles include a diet based on subsistence foods. This diet provides many benefits, such as inexpensive nutrients, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, calories, proteins. Other advantages include protection from diabetes and cardiovascular disease, improved maternal nutrition, neonatal and infant brain development (Middaugh, 2001). Not only are the subsistence foods an important source of nutrition, they are also pivotal to the cultural and spiritual life of the people. Many of the marine mammals they consume are contaminated by the POPs (Chary, 2000). These animals include seals, whales, and birds. All of these animals have copious amounts of fats and organ meats. POPs usually accumulate in fatty tissue and organs, and people in the north tend to eat more of these than people further south. (Gofman, 2003).

Humans are at great risk when exposed to these contaminants. Developing cells are more sensitive to contamination. This makes fetuses, infants, and nursing babies most vulnerable. POPs can reach infants through breast milk and fetuses through the umbilical cord (Ryan, 2000). Sheila Watt-Cloutier, President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Canada, stated that, "The breast milk of Inuit women contains concentration of certain POPs, five to ten time higher than that of women in southern Canada." In a study on five villages in the Aleutian Islands, scientists found that PCB concentrations were higher among men than women, which is similar to the patterns found in several marine mammal species (Chary 2000).

Adak Island

A specific island that has various issues with POPs is Adak Island. The approximately 300 indigenous people that inhabit this island rely heavily on the marine environment as their food source rather than standard processed food. Much of the food is POP contaminated, since it is mostly comprised of marine mammals. Also contributing to the copious amounts of POP contamination is the military base. POP stockpiles accumulate there, causing the people of Adak Island to be even more likely to consume POP infected animals (UAA-ISER, 2002).

Proposed Solution

In solving this problem, we will take a prevention and cure outlook. In order to prevent further incidents from occurring, we will arrange to have a new treaty developed. This will keep countries from abusing the POPs that continually harm the environment. Another method of eliminating the harmful toxins from the environment is through alternative methods. These chemicals and methods perform similar functions to POPs, but do not harm organisms. By adjusting and monitoring the diet of Alaskan Natives, POPs will rarely enter their system, and so the effects will be minimal. In order to cure the problem, a research center will be set up. This center will study the effects the natives suffer from the POPs and find ways to treat the symptoms. Currently there are no specific antidotes for any of the twelve major POPs (Stober, 2001). Antidotes need to be developed, and through this research center a way to remedy these harmful toxins may be within grasp.

A way to help discontinue the spread of POPs is to create a treaty banning many of the primary POPs still being used. To create a treaty, preliminary studies need to be performed on the populations of areas afflicted with POPs. Verifications on how the chemical came to the area and its possible origins are vital. With this information, a draft of the treaty can be written. For this purpose, the help of the Arctic Council Action Plan to Eliminate Pollution of the Arctic (ACAP) can be enlisted. After many amendments and negotiations, the treaty can be submitted to the U.S. legislature and the U.N. legislature, so other countries will have the opportunity to agree with the treaty (ABC, 2000).

Countries in agreement with the treaty will sign, signifying that they will try to refrain from actions that defeat the purpose of the treaty. Next, the countries that sign are expected to adjust and adapt to the treaty. After these adjustments have been made, they are allowed to send in a letter to the Secretary-General of the U.N. for ratification. Ratification refers to the legalization of the treaty in the designated country (ABC, 2000).

Currently, there is a treaty calling for a ban of the 12 main POPs: the Stockholm Convention. This convention also recommends using alternative processes and materials in order to prevent the formation of POPs. It specifies household and medical waste as being a major source of POPs (Greenpeace, 2001).

The Stockholm convention was signed by 120 nations in 2001. The treaty is based on the 'precautionary principle,' which implies that taking preventative action when there are people harming the environment, or if there is a concern over the health of the people and wildlife, is necessary. Right now it has been ratified by 11 countries: Canada, Fiji, Germany, Iceland, Lesotho, Liberia, Nauru, Netherlands, Rwanda, Samoa, and Sweden (Greenpeace, 2001).

Many POPs are released due to and from incineration, paper, PVC products, and pesticides. There are alternatives to releasing the POPs involved in the above products and actions, though they may be slightly more costly.

Stockpile incineration should be replaced with clean destruction processes. These processes involve destroying 100% of the chemicals, reprocessing any residue to ensure there's no harmful residue, and insure no uncontrolled chemical releases from the break down process are released into the environment (Greenpeace, 2002).

Alternatives to paper and PVC products are generally simplistic. Paper can be created with the use of oxygen-based bleaches. Often they are made with chlorine-based bleaches, which helps create POPs. PVC is often found in building materials. These can be replaced with materials like concrete, clay, metal, and timber (Greenpeace, 2002).

Pesticide alternatives can vary. The elimination of breeding grounds for insects and the control of an insect's primary food source can help lower insect population. If chemicals are absolutely necessary, different chemicals for the insects may be used. Examples of some animals and their alternative chemical pesticides are termites and carbofuran, chlorpyriphos, and carbaryl. Examples of protection from tick-related diseases are the usage of appropriate clothing, vaccines, and even various plants that repel the tick. There are many opportunities for safe pest control (Wahlström, 2000).

Within the native Alaskan community, the survival of the group is passes down through the generations to ensure to transmission of language and important values. To these people, hunting their own food is a celebration. The work is rigorous, and promotes feelings of self-reliance and self-esteem. In order to maintain their identity, native Alaskans need to be able to conduct their way of life as they have done for hundreds of years (Egeland et al., 1998).

Unfortunately, with the rising levels of POPs in the environment, the natives are finding it difficult to maintain their way of life and remain healthy enough to carry on their traditions. The fat the native Alaskans consume is high in healthy compounds like protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids–and bad things like toxic chemicals. Therefore, it seems logical to replace the high fat diet of the native Alaskans with a more carbohydrate based diet. However, this can have malevolent unforeseen consequences (O'harra, 2003).

Store-bought foods are drastically higher in processed sugars, saturated fats and sodium than any food that the native Alaskans normally eat. There is an abundance of 'empty calories.' Because these foods are so different, the Natives are highly predisposed to a variety of conditions, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes (Lanier et al., 2000). Because of this, their diet should not be altered from its current position.

Extreme caution needs to be taken when the native Alaskans consume their food. In order to avoid the most drastic affects of the harmful toxins, they need to consider what they eat at what time. Organs such as kidneys and liver of marine animals act as a sink for chemicals. By simply avoiding those organs, a majority of the POPs can be avoided. Arctic animals loose their fat in the winter, and so the POP concentration levels are most high during this time period. By hunting the animals in the fall when the animals are fattest and saving the meat for the winter months, Alaskan natives may successfully avoid a huge danger. Also, pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid blubber all together. If a woman contains POPs in her body, she will most certainly pass them on to her child through some avenue, may it be umbilical cord or breast milk. If she wishes to keep her child healthy, she will monitor her diet.

The extent of the POP spreading is still unknown. Therefore, testing is the most logical course of action, because if the extent of the problem is not recognized, then a solution cannot fully be developed. Testing would require setting up a research system, agreement with the natives, and correlating solution research.

Permission would need to be received from the various Alaskan tribes on Adak Island. After permission is granted for testing and research then each tribe would have to designate a representative from the island that could be coordinate with.

The initial testing would involve skin punch biopsies. A skin punch biopsy requires first numbing the surrounding tissue with Lydocan. This area should be either the abdomen or buttock. After being numbed, a small core is taken with a coring tool. This core is less than 3mm in diameter. A skin punch biopsy is done over blood work because the punch biopsy contains fat cells, which is where POPs are stored. The doctor taking these punch biopsies would be a doctor from the Alaskan Native Medical Center. The doctors at the medical center have expressed interest in helping pro bono as long as it is only once a year they have to take samples (Stuart, 2003). These skin samples would show the current POP levels in the natives. Although not all the villagers would have to be tested, around 20%, should be tested. This 20% should include different ages, body types, and genders (Buchholz, 2003).

Currently there is no safe limit on POPs. The general opinion is either one has them right now, or there are none within the body. Having any levels in a system is unhealthy. While it is common knowledge that POPs are harmful, a safe level hasn't been established before major problems begin to occur. This would be done either through the testing of lab animals or by monitoring the natives. If the harmful levels can be shown through a generalized rate, then the natives need to remain well below that limit. If a native begins to accumulate detrimental amounts, then careful documentation of the symptoms needs to be maintained.

After skin cell samples are obtained, then a yearly research center needs to be set up at that location for obtaining further samples. The ideal place as stated earlier is Adak island. On this island there is a closed military base. This base was closed in the early 90's as a move by the government to cut costs of the national budget. This facility possesses the size and functionality to house the research center. (Griffin, 2003).

The issue of equipment comes up next. The first major piece you would need is a chemical analysis machine. This would allow the lab there to test a large number of animals to do a large monitoring and testing effort. Although this machine would be quite expensive being around 50,000 dollars, it is more cost effective then sending out $300 sample.(Griffin, 2003)

The next issue is funding. Since this research would involve both humans and the environment, more options are available. The Environmental Protection Agency would need to be contacted to discuss funding or grants. They provide yearly grants to organizations but unfortunately the most their grants reach up to are 200,000 dollars so they couldn't be the sole funding source. So the next funding option is the best. A grant called the Biological Response to Environmental Health Hazards has a budget of 171 million dollars. This grant is also funding projects and research facilities with an emphasis on pollutants. This research center is perfect for what this grant is hoping to fund and helping this grant achieve what it's hoping to study.

Also to maintain research facilities you need a staff. The staff could be broken down into three main categories, marine, dieticians, and medical researchers. First you have the marine researcher who would study the effects of POP's upon the surrounding land and the environments. Next the dieticians would work closely with the natives to determine their current diet and if need be a diet that they could be switched to without causing nutritional harm. Finally the medical researchers would be studying the levels of the POP's and determining if there are health changes and possible solutions to these changes.

Then you have the reporting of the results. Each respective group would report there results. For example the medical researchers could report their finding through the Journal of the American Medical association. Research magazines like these would quickly allow people to be updated on the current research and the current situation. Next if it is proven that POP's are an immediate hazard then the United States government needs to take the results found them and present them to the United Nations. The United Nations would then have more reason to back up there reasons to ban POP's throughout the whole world.


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Kuiken, T., U. Höfle, P.M. Bennett, C.R. Allchin, J.K. Kirkwood, J.R. Baker, E.C. Appleby, C.H. Lockyer, M.J. Walton, and M.C. Sheldrick. 1993. Adrenocortical hyperplasia, Disease and Chlorinated Hydrocarbons in the Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Mar. Poll. Bull. 26(8):440-446.

Lanier, A. P., J. J. Kelly, P. Holck, B. Smith, T. McEvoy. 2000. Alaska Native Cancer Update 1985-97. Anchorage, AK: Alaska Native Health Board and Alaska Native Medical Center.

Middaugh, John, MD Editor. 27 Dec. 2001 Section Of Epidemiology Assessment of Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants in 5 Aleutian and Pribilof Villages. Volume No 5.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital. 2002. Toxins Put Arctic Polar Bears and Human at Risk. http://health_info.nmh.org/HealthNews/rueters?NewsStory1002200221.htm

O'harra, Doug. 4 Nov. 2003 Alaska Health Expert: Beluga Whales are Healthy Food Choice.

Onion, Amanda. July. 2003 Rare Bears in Bind Melting Ice and Chemical Contaminants Putting Kings of the Artic at Risk.http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/World/bears030721.html

Paterson, Katie. 2002. POPs – Arctic Invaders. http://www.carleton.ca/catalyst/staging/s5.shtml

Robaire, Bernard. Montreal. 2001. Effects of in Utero Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants on Development and Reproduction.

Ryan, Kristin. Sep. 2000. Contaminants in Alaska. www.state.ak.us/dec/deh/POPs.htm

Stober, J. 2001. Health effects of POPs.

Stuart, Nancy. 17 Dec. 2003. Nurse at the Alaska Native Medical Center. 4315 Diplomacy Dr., Anchorage, AK 99508, 907-729-1758

Swain, W.R., T. Colborn, C. Bason, R. Howarth, L. Lamey, B. Palmer and D. Swackhamer. 1992. Chapter 22: Exposure and Effects of Airborne Contamination for the Great Waters Program Report. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Tesar, Clive. 2000. POPs: What they are; How they are Used; How they are Transported. Canadian Arctic Resources Committee Volume 26, No. 1.

UAA-ISER (University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research. 2002. Demographic & Geographic Sketches of Alaska Natives.

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). 22-23 May. 2001. What Are POPs? Stockholm, Sweden.

UNEP/GPA (United Nations Environment Programme – Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities). 7 July. 2001 http://pops.gpa.unep.org

Wahlström, Bo. 2000. Selecting Alternatives to POPs.

WFPHA (World Federation of Public Health Associations). Washington. 2000. Persistent Organic Pollutants and Human Health.

World Resource Institute. 2002. Persistent Organic Pollutants.



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