Sunscreen agents detected in Arctic snow samples for the first time

Sunscreen agents detected in Arctic snow samples for the first time

Sunscreen agents detected in Arctic snow samples for the first time

Chemical contaminants left by personal care items, such as sunscreen, have been found in Arctic snow. 



An international team of researchers found traces of sunscreen agents on the glaciers of the Svalbard archipelago. 

This study sheds light on the pervasive impact of personal care products in remote Arctic regions. 

They measured the concentration of contaminants accumulated during the Arctic winter.

Snow was collected from five glaciers on the Brggerhalvya peninsula during April and May 2021. These locations were selected from a mix of proximate human settlements and more secluded, distant locations.

The researchers investigated the gathered samples for the presence of emerging pollutants, which are substances that are already in use but are being intensively studied for their potential environmental impact.

“Many of the contaminants we have analyzed, such as Benzophenone-3, Octocrylene, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, and Ethylhexyl Salicylate had never been identified in Arctic snow before,” said Marianna D’Amico, a Ph.D. student in polar sciences at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and first author of the study.

Snow sample analysis

According to the official release, the distribution pattern of certain contaminants changes with altitude. 

Most of these chemicals were found in larger amounts at lower altitudes. However, an exception is noted for Octocrylene and Benzophenone-3, two UV filters commonly found in sunscreens. Surprisingly, these particular compounds exhibit greater abundance on glacier tops. 

The team suggests that they likely traveled from lower latitudes to higher altitudes, facilitated by atmospheric circulation.

“The results show that the presence of emerging contaminants in remote areas can be attributed to the role of long-range atmospheric transport,” explained Marco Vecchiato, researcher in Analytical Chemistry at Ca’ Foscari and co-author of the paper.

“In fact, the highest concentrations were found in winter deposition. At the end of winter, contaminated air masses from Eurasia reach the Arctic more easily,” Vecchiato added in the press release.

The research holds paramount importance for ongoing monitoring initiatives in the region and is crucial for safeguarding the well-being of the local ecosystem. The identified contaminants have the potential to affect the health of aquatic organisms, inducing changes in the functions of the endocrine and hormonal systems.

Researchers from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the Institute of Polar Sciences—National Research Council of Italy (CNR-ISP) collaborated with the University Center in Svalbard (UNIS) on the project. 

Source: Interesting Engineering

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Sunscreen agents detected in Arctic snow samples for the first time

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