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ArcRisk - Arctic Health Risks: Impacts on health in the Arctic and Europe owing to climate-induced changes in contaminant cycling

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Summary information

Funding:FP7 - Collaborative Research Project Small or Mediumscale Focused Research
Total cost:4740000
Ec contribution:3500000
Start date:2009-06-01
End date:2013-11-30
Duration:54 months
Coordinator:Janet Pawlak (
Organisation:Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Secretariat – Norway
Themes:Biological impacts; socio-economic consequences
Keywords:Human health, long-range transport contaminants, arctic, food webs
Project name:ArcRisk - Arctic Health Risks: Impacts on health in the Arctic and Europe owing to climate-induced changes in contaminant cycling
Project summary:Studies in the Arctic have identified populations that have very high dietary exposure to environmental contaminants, largely as a result of their traditional subsistence diets. Several of these populations have been the subject of detailed health studies. The developments of policies to reduce levels of environmental contamination and protect human health, that also take into account our changing climate, require a sound scientific basis. The Arctic studies provide a rich source of information that can be used to make comparisons with situations in other parts of Europe, now and under future scenarios of climate change. Long-range transport of contaminants to the Arctic, the resulting exposures observed in Arctic human populations, and impacts of such exposures on human health have been the subject of considerable work in recent years, providing a baseline against which to compare future developments. Global climate change has the potential to remobilize environmental contaminants and alter contaminant transport pathways, fate, and routes of exposure in human populations. The Arctic is particularly sensitive to climate change and already exhibits clear impacts. Thus, research into contaminant exposure and its effects on human health in the Arctic, in comparison with other exposed populations in Europe, presents an opportunity to gain insight into changes that may later impact other areas. The influence of climate change on contaminant spreading and transfer and the resultant risk to human populations in the Arctic and other areas of Europe will be studied by:
- Research on the ways in which climate change will affect the long-range transport and fate of selected groups of contaminants, and possible implications for the re-distribution of contaminants. This will involve modelling, utilizing the information base that exists on the distribution of such contaminants in the Arctic and other areas of Europe.
- Research on the impacts that changing pathways and climatic conditions will have on contaminant uptake and transfer within food webs, leading to foods consumed by humans. This will involve experimental work, process studies and targeted analytical studies, the latter focussed on supporting the modelling work and process studies related to human exposure to contaminants.
- Research focussing on human health, aimed at determining how climate-mediated changes in the environmental fate of selected groups of contaminants will result in changes in exposure of human populations, in the Arctic and in selected areas of Europe.

Results of the research will be evaluated from a policy-development perspective and synthesised in products appropriate for policy-makers and other stakeholders.
Project outputs:Expected Achievements
- New information about the chemical characteristics and environmental behaviour of representative contaminants in Arctic conditions.
- Model results describing the transport of chemical contaminants from source regions to the Arctic, and their fate, including uptake in food webs, under selected climate scenarios.
- Compilations of data and information providing an overview of exposure of Arctic populations to contaminants at the present time, and how this may change in the future due to climate change.
- Compilations of data and results of past and current health studies of human populations in several areas of the Arctic, and their analysis with respect to the potential health impacts of contaminant exposure.
- Comparison of information from Arctic health studies with results of studies of contaminant effects on populations in other selected areas of Europe.
- Evaluation of policy measures that could be taken at the European level to reduce exposure to contaminants and associated health effects in the Arctic and in Europe under changing climatic conditions.
- Materials to communicate ArcRisk project results to key stakeholders.