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NEWS BLOG

Study maps pollution’s pathway to the Arctic, sets path for future research

It’s been more than a decade since global leaders met in Stockholm, Sweden, to sign a treaty with the goal of eliminating persistent organic pollutants making their way into our food chain — such as harmful pesticides like DDT that nearly wiped out the American Bald Eagle. While leaders have come a long way in restricting these types of pollutants, contamination of the Arctic remains a problem. Researchers at MIT are working to help inform policies that more effectively address contamination problems with their latest research and the help of a new grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Persistent organic pollutants are chemicals of substantial international concern,” Noelle Selin, the project’s lead researcher and assistant professor in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division and Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says. “For emerging contaminants in the Arctic, we need to know more about their sources, environmental behavior, and transport pathways in order to regulate them more effectively.”

Selin and Carey Friedman, a postdoctoral associate at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, had their latest results published last week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The study, Long-Range Atmospheric Transport of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: A Global 3-D Model Analysis Including Evaluation of Arctic Sources, describes the researchers’ development of a detailed 3-D atmospheric model used to track the day-to-day transport of chemicals. Specifically, they tracked PAHs — toxic byproducts of burning wood, coal, oil and other forms of energy that remain in the atmosphere for less time than other persistent organic pollutants regulated by global standards.
See the rest of the article in MIT News

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