Magazine article Science News

Even Nunavut Gets Plenty of Dioxin

Magazine article Science News

Even Nunavut Gets Plenty of Dioxin

Article excerpt

Carved from the Northwest Territories, Nunavut became Canada's newest province last year. This huge arctic territory is home to a mere 24,000 people, mostly native Inuit. Though Nunavut lacks heavy industries, it hasn't avoided their toxic fallout. The breast milk of Inuit women there, for instance, contains twice the average concentration of dioxin found in the milk of women in southern Quebec. One reason is that the Inuit diet consists primarily of fatty animals high in the food chain, which accumulate especially high concentrations of dioxin.

A new study finds that most of Nunavut's dioxin comes from industrial combustion in the eastern and midwestern United States--not Canada. Some even originates as far away as Mexico. The Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), created under the North American Free Trade Agreement, released the findings this week.

A computer program modeled the pollutant's path. The program is able "to specify exactly which sources contribute, proportionately," to the dioxin in Nunavut or any other area, explains study leader Barry Commoner, director of the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at City University of New York.

Dioxin doesn't target Nunavut, emphasizes Mark Cohen, the model's developer and an atmospheric scientist who used to work with Commoner. Within a couple weeks of its release, dioxin has traveled in many directions, he notes, leaving North America "awash in it."

His model generates a hypothetical puff of dioxin from each known or projected source every few hours throughout an entire year. …

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