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In the days 11 and 12 October, a selected group of new and senior scientists gathered to inform about and discuss the latest news in the area of emerging environmental pollutants. The seminar participants were experts mainly on emerging contaminants, where the term emerging in this instance hints to the fact that these compounds or groups of compounds are not widely recognised as pollutants although they may not have been recently produced.
The participants were both scientists and representatives from national research and governmental bodies as well as selected international research institutes and agencies. They represented all the Nordic countries, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands. All holds important roles in the preparatory work of regulation – whether in the form of total bans or in restriction on the use- of compounds that may end up as environmental pollutants.
The background for the seminar is the common Nordic work to investigate the appearance of possible emerging contaminants in our environment. With 100 million compounds registered and only a few dozen of these regulated as in the Stockholm POP Convention, and with tens of thousands new being registered every day, there is a need for keeping an open eye on the possible emergence of new compounds with deleterious environmental effect. The newest method in the field of detection of such compounds involves the so-called non-targeted screening analysis. The utilization of this means a widening of the spectrum of chemicals being analysed to not only encompass the “good” old environment al pollutants, but also those yet to be discovered; this is what is meant by the term non-targeted or in other words- analyse where the analyte has not been predefined. At the seminar, more presentations were given describing studies on emerging contaminants in the Nordic countries and then in particular in the Arctic areas of these, as in Svalbard. Studies on well-known brominated flame-retardants were presented along with those on organophosphorus flame-retardants found in fish, seabirds, and marine mammals like seal and polar bear in Arctic. These environmental pollutants end up in the Arctic most often due to long-range transport by air and water masses, but may also partially stem from local sources of anthropogenic activities.
A group of Norwegian and Swedish laboratories with representatives from the University of Umeå in Sweden and the Norwegian institutes for air and water research, NILU and NIVA respectively, are presently performing a survey on behalf of the Joint Nordic Screening Group whose work is supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers. This survey is a combination of non-targeted and the common targeted screening, and it is done on samples from urban areas in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. The analyses in this study are very work-intensive particularly in the data analyses and encompass a small number of samples of fish, sediments and effluents from waste water treatment plants. The preliminary results from this study were presented at the seminar.These indicate that traces of various pharmaceuticals, bisphenols we have hardly ever heard of, various fluorinated chemicals, as well as biocides and industrial chemicals can be detected in the environmental samples.
The intention is, that the next screening undertaken by the Joint Nordic Screening Group shall be focussed on per- and polyfluorinated compounds.