Researchers from Maine University have discovered that Alaskan children who consume fish from rivers which are fed by Alaska’s Eastern Mountain Range could be at risk of cancer. The study conducted by Kimberly Miner’s team was published in Journal of Exposure to Science and Environmental Epidemiology which revealed that cancer risk is due to accumulation of insecticides in the meltwater of the rivers. The risk of cancer among children is higher in comparison to adults as due to their size and limited level of immunity which cannot intake high levels of organochlorine pollutants.
The fact that these pollutants are distributed through arctic region is well documented and it is known that some of these are drawn into glacial ice which melts and releases them into reservoirs in the downstream region. Though there is awareness of organochlorine pollutants (OCP) till data no assessment has been done about the risk of melt-water exposure to communities in the region. As glaciers in Alaska continue to melt faster due to climate change the concentration of OCP in streams and rivers will continue to rise far above current levels says Kimberly Miner who is also a physical scientist at Army Geospatial Research Lab in Virginia.
The team therefore used US Environmental Protection Agency’s methodology to develop and apply risk assessment model for glacial watersheds to glaciated Jarvis Creek watershed region in interior Alaska. The study team discovered that even when concentration of OCP in these glacial melt-waters is low, high consumption of fish by communities adjacent to the streams and rivers would increase risk of cancer. Though this model was applied to just one watershed it could be applied to all the Arctic regions of North America to check for increasing OCP level in water and fish. Miner warned that this secondary impact of climate change could be highly toxic for children so it has to be addressed in a comprehensive manner.
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