For decades sea ice has been perceived as a physical barrier for the loading of contaminants to the Arctic Ocean. We show that sea ice, in fact, facilitates the delivery of organic contaminants to the Arctic marine food web through processes that: 1) are independent of contaminant physical–chemical properties (e.g. 2–3-fold increase in exposure to brine-associated biota), and 2) depend on physical–chemical properties and, therefore, differentiate between contaminants (e.g. atmospheric loading of contaminants to melt ponds over the summer, and their subsequent leakage to the ocean). We estimate the concentrations of legacy organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and current-use pesticides (CUPs) in melt pond water in the Beaufort Sea, Canadian High Arctic, in 2008, at near-gas exchange equilibriumbased on Henry's lawconstants (HLCs), air concentrations and exchange dynamics. CUPs currently present the highest risk of increased exposures through melt pond loading and drainage due to the high ratio of melt pond water to seawater concentration (Melt pond Enrichment Factor, MEF), which ranges from 2 for dacthal to 10 for endosulfan I. Melt pond contaminant enrichment can be perceived as a hypothetical ‘pump’ delivering contaminants from the atmosphere to the ocean under ice-covered conditions, with 2–10% of CUPs annually entering the Beaufort Sea via this input route compared to the standing stock in the Polar Mixed Layer of the ocean. The abovementioned processes are strongly favored in first-year ice compared to multi-year ice and, therefore, the dynamic balance between contaminant inventories and contaminant deposition to the surface ocean is being widely affected by the large-scale icescape transition taking place in the Arctic.
Science of the Total Environment, 2015, Vol 506-507, p. 444-452