Saturday July 15, 2017

Toxins from Greenland's melting ice may be cleaned up by bacteria

Scientists worry the global pollution locked in the ice could end up in the food chain as the ice continues to melt.

Scientists worry the global pollution locked in the ice could end up in the food chain as the ice continues to melt. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Listen 8:06

As our climate continues to warm, the ice sheets in the Arctic, including on Greenland, are melting faster than anywhere else in the world. This is contributing to rising sea levels, and changing ocean conditions. But there's another, more insidious hazard here: the release of toxic pollutants that until very recently have been locked up in Arctic ice.

Over the last century or more, a range of nasty chemical pollutants from around the world have accumulated in Arctic ice. As the ice melts, these toxic chemicals can leach back into the environment.  But according to a new study by Aviaja Hauptmann, a post doctoral researcher in microbiology at the University of Greenland, there's now a possibility we might be getting a little help with these toxins from pollution-eating bacteria. 

Paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Contamination of the Arctic reflected in microbial metagenomes from the Greenland ice sheet