How Did Our Toxic Chemicals Get to the Arctic?

Even a pristine and remote location like the Arctic is not free from contamination. Toxic chemicals, such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury, are found in the Arctic — they have arrived from outside sources and researchers are trying to determine how much contamination there is, what the impact is on the Arctic ecosystem and what can be done about it.

The Yukon Science Institute is hosting a free lecture in Whitehorse on Tuesday, Feb. 26 to share research results with the public.

The lecture is called Atmospheric Transport and Transformation of Contaminants in the Arctic. It will be presented by Hayley Hung and Sandy Steffen, who worked with Environment Canada to conduct research at Alert, Nunavut and Little Fox Lake, Yukon. They will also present measurements taken over the sea ice and from various sites that may be impacting the Canadian Arctic.

POPs and mercury have been the focus of atmospheric research as part of the Northern Contaminants Program and the International Polar Year. For the past 20 years, Environment Canada has been investigating how these contaminants travel on air masses and how they are deposited into the Arctic ecosystem.

Hung and Steffen will present the history of these issues; how the Arctic uniquely treats these toxic chemicals; and what they have been doing to understand how they behave.

And perhaps most importantly, they will present what is being done to address the situation.

The Yukon Science Institute (YSI) is a volunteer run, non-profit organization that seeks to promote public awareness about science activities in the Yukon, and to aid and facilitate scientific research and development.

The institute hosts free lectures to the public, on approximately a monthly basis.

YSI was created in 1985 with the objective to “encourage, promote, and support research on scientific, engineering, medical and socio-economic matters that will contribute to the achievement of the social and economic goals of the people of the Yukon Territory.”

The YSI is hosting the lecture Atmospheric Transport and Transformation of Contaminants in the Arctic next lecture on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. It will take place at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, beside the Transportation Museum in Whitehorse.

For more information about the institute or the lecture series, go to or contact them by email at [email protected]

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