Scientists have discovered traces of thirteen common ingredients in sunscreens and other personal care products in the snowpack of five Arctic glaciers in the Svalbard archipelago.
“For some of these chemicals, this is the first time their presence is reported in the snow in Svalbard,” Ms. Marianna D’Amico, a polar scientist at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in Italy, and associates explain in their published paper.
The “Chemicals of Emerging Arctic Concern” (CEACs) are substances that have been identified by a team of environmental scientists as being of particular interest to researchers. This watch list, called the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, documents the extent and effects of pollution in the Arctic to help guide policy decisions.
While these chemicals are produced and used more frequently, our understanding of their distribution and behavior in polar environments has not kept up.
A few CEACs have previously been discovered in the Arctic and Antarctica, in snow, wastewater streams near research stations, seawater, and surface waters.
The researchers examined 13 common ingredients of personal care products, such as fragrances found in shampoos and soaps and UV filters found in sunscreens, like benzophenone-3 (BP3), to obtain additional evidence about their distribution.
They took 25 snow samples in the spring of 2021 from five glaciers up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) away, as well as from an active research site just south of Ny-Ålesund village. Samples were taken from the same location at varying depths to observe seasonal variations in concentrations.
UV filter concentrations in winter-deposited snow were higher than in other seasons’ snowpack in all but one of the sampled glaciers. The researchers also discovered that there were higher concentrations of two UV filters at the top of the glaciers: octocrylene and BP3.
The research station near Ny-Ålesund may contribute to local pollution because polar scientists visit the glaciers on a regular basis. However, based on these patterns, the team believes that the UV-absorbent chemicals were probably carried by winds to the far-flung Arctic glaciers.