AMAP Assessment 2011: Mercury in the Arctic. Executive Summary and Key Recommendations.
Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)
Previous AMAP assessments of mercury in the Arctic published in 1997 and 2002, reported that a substantial amount of the mercury in the Arctic arrives via long-range transport from human sources at lower latitudes and that, owing to their traditional diet some Arctic populations receive high dietary exposure to mercury, raising concern for human health. This situation prompted calls by the Arctic Council for global action to reduce mercury emissions The previous AMAP assessments also identified fundamental questions regarding what controls mercury levels in the Arctic, and how (and when) these levels are likely to fall in response to controls on emissions. The cycling of methylmercury (one of the most toxic forms of mercury) is paramount in this respect. The likely impact of future climate change in altering mercury delivery and fate in the Arctic is also extremely important. The effects of mercury on biota may be particularly relevant for species at the limits of their tolerance to other stressors. The overarching goal of this assessment was therefore to update information relevant to answering the question: WHAT CONTROLS MERCURY LEVELS IN THE ARCTIC AND WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS ON ARCTIC BIOTA? Mercury continues to present risks to Arctic wildlife and human populations. Despite many remaining gaps in knowledge, this assessment confirms the need for concerted international action if mercury levels in the Arctic (and in the rest of the world) are to be reduced. It is of particular concern that mercury levels are continuing to rise in some Arctic species in large areas of the Arctic, despite reductions in emissions from human activities over the past 30 years in some parts of the world. The human health components of this assessment reflect information on mercury and human health that was presented in the 2009 AMAP Assessment of human health in the Arctic. Risk communication and dietary advice have been used to reduce human mercury exposure in some regions of the Arctic; however, solutions that are more effective over the longer term still need to be found. Reducing human and environmental exposure to mercury in the Arctic will ultimately depend on global action to reduce the quantities of mercury entering the ‘environmental reservoirs’, in which mercury has already been accumulating as a result of human activities for several hundred years. It is therefore important that the momentum for global action is maintained.