Articles | Volume 10, issue 20
20 Oct 2010
 | 20 Oct 2010

Pathways of PFOA to the Arctic: variabilities and contributions of oceanic currents and atmospheric transport and chemistry sources

I. Stemmler and G. Lammel

Abstract. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and other perfluorinated compounds are industrial chemicals in use for decades which resist degradation in the environment and seem to accumulate in polar regions. Transport of PFOA was modeled using a spatially resolved global multicompartment model including fully coupled three-dimensional ocean and atmosphere general circulation models, and two-dimensional top soil, vegetation surfaces, and sea ice compartments. In addition to primary emissions, the formation of PFOA in the atmosphere from degradation of 8:2 fluorotelomer alcohol was included as a PFOA source. Oceanic transport, delivered 14.8±5.0 (8–23) t a−1 to the Arctic, strongly influenced by changes in water transport, which determined its interannual variability. This pathway constituted the dominant source of PFOA to the Arctic. Formation of PFOA in the atmosphere led to episodic transport events (timescale of days) into the Arctic with small spatial extent. Deposition in the polar region was found to be dominated by wet deposition over land, and shows maxima in boreal winter. The total atmospheric deposition of PFOA in the Arctic in the 1990s was ≈1 t a−1, much higher than previously estimated, and is dominated by primary emissions rather than secondary formation.

Final-revised paper