Credit: IISD/ENB Kiara Worth On the heels of persistent pollutants 10 May 2021Arctic PeoplesPollutantsArctic Monitoring and Assessment ProgrammePathwaysAddressing Contaminants and Human Health Issues Persistent organic pollutants have been on the radar of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) for a long time. The Working Group’s first comprehensive pollution assessment provided input for the negotiations of a global treaty that would regulate emissions of these toxic chemicals. While global regulations showed their effects, another threat was lurking and AMAP early on made the connection between a warming climate and contaminants. Today the evidence is increasing: climate change could provide pollutants with new pathways into the Arctic. A soapstone carving of a mother cradling her new-born child stood in front of John Buccini. Always in his sight as he chaired the challenging negotiations that would decide on whether the delegates could agree on a treaty that banned the use, or at least reduced, the so-called “dirty dozen” – twelve potent chemicals, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), threatening the health of humans and ecosystems. The carving had been a gift from Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit woman from Nunavik and then Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). It was her sign of appreciation to the leaders of the negotiations of what would become the Stockholm Convention, an international environmental treaty on POPs. The carving was also a constant reminder of what was at stake: the health of mothers and their children – especially in the Arctic. POPs are toxic chemicals that may adversely affect human health and wildlife across the globe. Wind and water carry the chemicals over long distances, away from the original source towards people and wildlife in remote regions. The molecules show persistence for a long time and many of them are fat-soluble, thus accumulating in the fatty tissues of animals and eventually via their diet in humans, where they can affect hormone and reproductive systems, cause cancers, or damage the nervous system. Arctic Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable as the chemicals build up in their traditional foods such as seal and whale blubber – a chemical burden that a mother shares with their infant through breastfeeding. “[A] poisoned Inuk child, a poisoned Arctic, and a poisoned planet are all one and the same,” Sheila Watt-Cloutier emphasized at the first negotiation session in Montreal in June 1998.