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Siberian scientists uncover high levels of toxic heavy metals on Arctic island

The scientists presume that the metal particles could have been carried by wind from remote industrial areas

MOSCOW, June 6. /TASS/ Researchers from Tyumen State University have conducted the first-ever monitoring of heavy metal content on the Bely Island in the Kara Sea and found elevated levels of lead in the soil, Dmitry Moskovchenko, Doctor of Geographical Sciences, and the leading research assistant at International Institute of Cryology and Cryosophy at TyumSU explained.
The scientists examined the soil on the island and discovered that the total content of metal is normal but in three spots, the level of lead pollution exceeded permissible boundaries. The scientists presume that the metal particles could have been carried by wind from remote industrial areas.

"In this regard, Bely Island is a "blind-spot" in our region. Previously, no ecological and geochemical research had been conducted there," Moskovchenko noted.
According to the scientists, research on the Kola Peninsula, Spitsbergen, the Norilsk industrial region, and along the delta of the Lena river have pointed to a dangerous level of pollution in soil, snow, and water. Moreover, active open cut mining of oil and gas on the Yamal Peninsula and on the shelf of the Kara Sea pose a serious threat to the environment. Meanwhile, the arctic part of Western Siberia has been poorly combed through as far as scouting out pollution is concerned, especially Bely Island, which is one of the Arctic’s most outlying regions situated in the Kara Sea.
"The most significant scientific conclusion from our study is that the content of metals in the soil at  Bely Island depends chiefly on the landscape’s conditions. The metal particles from the soil of inter-stream areas are spread followed by their accumulation in floodplains and intercostal flat lowlands. This process might lead to a local surge in concentrations of some metals  to a very dangerous level," Moskovchenko noted. The study’s results could assist in monitoring the Arctic’s environment given the growing hazard of pollution caused by oil and gas fields.
In 2016, the Bely Island clean-up was completed which took place under the Arctic decontamination project. Volunteers from Russia, China, Chile, Germany, and Israel collected about 1,000 tonnes of scrap metal consisting mainly of tankers for fuels from previous geological prospecting activities.