STOCKHOLM — Global mercury emissions
could grow by 25 percent by 2020 if no action is taken to control them,
posing a threat to polar bears, whales and seals and the Arctic
communities who hunt those animals for food, an authoritative
international study says.
The assessment by a scientific
body set up by the eight Arctic rim countries also warns that climate
change may worsen the problem, by releasing mercury stored for
thousands of years in permafrost or promoting chemical processes that
transform the substance into a more toxic form.
“It is of
particular concern that mercury levels are continuing to rise in some
Arctic species in large areas of the Arctic,” despite emissions
reductions in nearby regions like Europe, North America and Russia, the
Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, or AMAP, said.
have increased in other parts of the world, primarily in China, which
is now the No. 1 mercury polluter, accounting for nearly half of total
emissions, AMAP said.
Its report, “Arctic Pollution 2011,” was
scheduled for release Friday at a scientific conference in Copenhagen,
but The Associated Press obtained a copy in advance from researchers
involved with the study.
Another report released earlier this
week at the meeting of nearly 400 scientists showed melting ice in the
Arctic could help raise global sea levels by as much as 5 feet (1.6
meters) this century, much higher than earlier projections.