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Melting glaciers may be pollution sources

ZURICH, Switzerland, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Swiss scientists say pollutants being emitted from melting glaciers might help explain an increase in persistent organic pollutants in some lakes.

Researchers from the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering, in Zurich, Switzerland, led by Christian Bogdal, focused on organic pollutants in sediment at glacier-fed Lake Oberaar in the Bernese Alps. The scientists tested the sediment for persistent organic pollutants, including dioxins, PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and synthetic musk fragrances.

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They said they found that while contamination decreased during the 1980s and 1990s due to tougher regulations and improvements in products, since the late 1990s the flow of all of the pollutants into the lake increased sharply. Currently, the flow of organochlorines into the lake is similar to, or even higher than, during the 1960s and 1970s, the scientists said.

The study attributes the most recent spike in the flow of pollutants into Lake Oberaar to the accelerated release of organic chemicals from melting Alpine glaciers, where contaminants were deposited earlier and preserved over decades.

"Considering ongoing global warming and accelerated massive glacial melting predicted for the future, our study indicates the potential for environmental impacts due to pollutants delivered into pristine mountainous areas," Bogdal said.

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The findings are to be detailed in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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