The Arctic is often seen as a remote and pristine area little affected by pollution. On the contrary, the Arctic is a major recipient for industrial chemicals coming from different polluting sources in the mid-latitudes and carried to the Arctic through the process of transboundary pollution.
Biological processes taking place in the Arctic Ocean - a closed basin – favor the accumulation and retention of pollutants that then enter the food chain. As a result, Arctic peoples and ecosystems are exposed to high levels of heavy metals and radiation.
Predicting the impact of contaminants is difficult because of the complex interactions between the physical, chemical, biological and human factors involved. At the same time, climate change is causing changes in the release, distribution and degradation of highly toxic chemicals.
By continuously advocating for binding international instruments to reduce hazardous substances, Indigenous Peoples in the Arctic and the Arctic Council played a significant role in the creation of the 2004 Stockholm Convention, and currently in the on-going work to establish a global mercury treaty. The Arctic Council currently works closely with UNEP’s Chemicals branch on these issues.