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1998 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

1998 Report—Chapter 2

Exhibit 2.1—Transport of Pollutants into the Arctic

To many Canadians, the Arctic represents a pristine environment. However, studies are showing that this is not the case. Air and water currents carry pollutants from distant parts of the Earth to the Arctic environment. For example, residues of certain pesticides and organochlorine compounds used in Southeast Asia and Central and South America have been found in the Arctic, carried there by air currents. Air currents also carry various pollutants from Europe and Eurasia, forming the reddish-brown haze in winter known as Arctic haze.

Surface ocean currents are responsible for carrying various types of pollutants from Europe and the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic. The sources of contaminants range from discharges into rivers to ocean dumping and atmospheric deposition, and include radioactive cesium picked up by the currents at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant off the coast of England.

The fragile ecosystem of the Arctic, and its people, are directly affected by the actions of people in other countries and on other continents. By taking steps to engage in collective action, Canada can help protect both the ecosystem and the inhabitants of the Arctic from unwanted transboundary pollution effects.

Source: "The State of Canada's Environment", Government of Canada, Ottawa, 1991