Taking a deep breath

Northern Contaminants Air Monitoring: Organic Pollutant Measurements.

Taking a deep breath
Hayley Hung (Environment and Climate Change Canada)
Apr 24, 2023

Clean air is essential to human, animal and environmental health. Examining contaminants in the air can help us better control what we put into it.

Researchers at the Northern Contaminants Air Monitoring project are interested in learning if contaminants in the Arctic and subarctic air are increasing or decreasing, where existing chemicals originate, how much comes from which regions, and what climate conditions induce their movement to the North.Air monitoring at the Yukon site is specifically assessing the influence of trans-Pacific and Asian contaminant sources on the western Canadian Arctic. It also screens snow samples for microplastics to measure the extent they can be carried by winds.

Scientists study air by using a pump that pulls air through a trap. The trap is set out in the environment and pollutants in the air become attached to it, are collected, and then studied. Projects in Little Fox Lake, Yukon, and Alert, Nunavut, are using the air pump-trap contraption to study contaminants like microplastics, fire-retardants, and chemicals used to block stains and make non-stick cookware (Teflon). Air monitoring at the Nunavut site examines for contamination events and for new contaminants of concern. Information gathered through these projects is shared with governments to inform policymakers when considering limiting emissions of organic compounds to protect delicate Arctic and subarctic ecosystems. The data are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of international control agreements, assess risks of new contaminants, and test numerical forecasting programs and calculations that explain contaminant movement.