Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitous and persistent in the environment. They are known to concentrate in cold environments as a result of progressive evaporation from warm regions, and condensation in colder regions. In this study we show that melting glaciers supply 50 to 97% of the organochlorine inputs to a subalpine lake in Alberta, Canada, while contributing 73% of input water. Tritium analyses indicated that during the mid- to late summer warm period, at least 10% of the glacial melt originated from ice that was deposited in 1950–1970, when it was more contaminated with organochlorines. This finding suggests that climate warming may cause melting glaciers to become increasing sources of contaminants to freshwaters. Organochlorines from glacial streams were largely in dissolved form because the organic-poor glacial clays had a limited sorption capacity for the more hydrophobic chemicals.
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Vol. 30 • No. 7