Many are aware of the threat of climate change to polar bears due to melting Arctic sea ice, but Greenwire reports that polar bears are also at risk from chemicals previously frozen within the ice.  The report:

Polar bears are not just facing the threat of climate change. They must also contend with pollutant chemicals that are not breaking down in cold Arctic water, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, reports that sea ice is receding and could expose species such as polar bears to organic pollutants, including flame-retardants and materials used in plastics. The chemicals can be locked into ice for decades and released as it melts due to rising temperatures.

“These contaminants are bio-accumulated and bio-magnified up the food chain. So the higher you are, the higher the contaminants,” said Bjørn Munro Jenssen, one of the study’s co-authors.

Munro Jenssen, an eco-toxicologist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said polar bears are especially at risk because they eat seals, which can store the chemicals in their fat. According to the study, the chemicals can affect the bears’ immune systems and mimic hormones. Some bears have even changed genders because of the chemicals.

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