London: Scientists have warned that melting glaciers and ice sheets are releasing cancer-causing pollutants into the air and oceans.
The long-lasting chemicals get into the food chain and build up in people``s bodies - triggering tumours, heart disease and infertility.
Scientists are concerned about a class of man-made toxins called Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, because they last decades in the environment and accumulate in body tissue.
They include pesticides such as DDT and chemicals called PCBs used in
Donald Cooper, of the United Nations Environment Programme, which published the report at the UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, said melting glaciers and ice sheets were releasing POPs trapped years ago into the air and seas.
Extreme weather events were releasing banned pollutants which been stockpiled ready to be destroyed.
And higher temperatures were likely to increase the spread of malaria – and increase the use of sprays such as DDT which are harmful to people.
“It is a problem in all parts of the world – pollutants do not respect borders. They travel thousands of miles and they continue to build,” the Daily Mail quoted Cooper as saying.
“Very small quantities of persistent organic pollutants get into the food chain but they accumulate in higher and higher levels as they go up the food chain. And the end of the food chain is us. We find them in mother’s breast milk and in blood.
“In the past pollutants have travelled long distances and become trapped in ice in glaciers and ice sheets. But as the ice melts, or when temperatures go up, they are released back into the seas and atmosphere.
“It doesn’t matter whether you live in Kenya or Britain, the food goes everywhere around the world,” Cooper added.
The UN study found that levels of POPs measured in breast milk and blood were rising in parts of the world.
PCBs were banned after studies showed they mimicked sex hormones and were linked to cancer and infertility.