More than $2.5 million in federal money is now available for projects seeking to research and monitor plastic pollution and contaminants in the Arctic, Ottawa announced on Monday.
The funding is linked to the Northern Contaminant Program, developed in 1991 to address the harms of plastics and contaminants in one of the least-polluted areas on the planet. Through Indigenous and scientific knowledge, the program seeks to cut down on sources of pollution that make their way to the Arctic and provide information to northern communities about the safety of local foods.
Early studies from the 1990s found northern ecosystems carried a wide variety of pollutants, such as “forever chemicals” (also known as persistent organic pollutants), microplastics and mercury, according to a federal government website.
The region is affected by global pollution but isn’t responsible for its creation, the federal government notes. The pollutants don’t come from local sources but instead travel to the Arctic through the air and water, accumulating in the local food chain.
In a recent peer-reviewed article in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, researchers linked plastic pollution with climate change, which has contributed to the Arctic warming three times faster than the global average. The article notes concentrations of microplastics in the Arctic Ocean are three times higher than the global average.
Many First Nations and Inuit depend on the local ecosystem for ancestral foods and local economies, contributing to higher risks of exposure to this pollution, according to the federal government.
“Together, with Indigenous partners, scientists are assessing the presence of contaminants and plastics pollution in Northern and Arctic communities,” Dan Vandal, minister of northern affairs, said in a press release.
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The funds will provide resources to local projects related to human health, environmental monitoring and research, and public outreach initiatives, with a third of the money going towards the federal government’s Plastics Science Agenda, a co-ordinated plan to research plastics science, the press release said.
Last year, 54 projects were funded through the same program.
Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative