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Glacial melting releases long-frozen pollutants

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As glaciers in the Alps continue to melt as climate change warms the Earth, researchers have discovered that high levels of organic pollutants deposited being they were regulated or banned are flowing into pristine glacial lakes.

The pollutants, including dioxins, PCBs and organochlorine pesticides, were discovered in a study of the glacier-fed Lake Overaar in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps by scientists with the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering in Zurich.

The flow of organochloriens into the lake is similar to or even higher than in the 1960s and 1970s when atmospheric release of the chemicals peaked, the report says.

The study, published in the November issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, noted that since 1999, the 1,500 glaciers in the Swiss Alps have shrunk by 12 percent.

“Considering ongoing global warming and accelerated massive glacier melting predicted for the future, our study indicates the potential for dire environmental impacts due to pollutants delivered into pristine mountainous areas,” the scientists wrote.

Jim Dawson reports for Inside Science News Service.

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