Naturvårdsverket

HELCOM to assess contamination levels of hazardous substances in eastern Baltic

Pressmeddelande   •   Sep 12, 2008 15:08 CEST

Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM)

For immediate release

Helsinki, 12 September (HELCOM Information Service) - HELCOM has recently launched a screening study on occurrence of hazardous substances in the eastern Baltic Sea as part of the activities under the Commission's ambitious plan to re-create a healthy Baltic marine environment. The study will identify the levels of nine hazardous substances or substance groups prioritized by HELCOM in the coastal waters of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Together with the national screenings in the western Baltic Sea, which have already been undertaken by Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden, the new data will be critical for closing existing information gaps on levels of hazardous substances in the whole Baltic basin.

"We need to get a clear picture of the state of contamination by hazardous substances in the whole Baltic Sea area in order to ensure the successful implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan to restore the good ecological status of the sea by 2021," said Anne Christine Brusendorff, HELCOM's Executive Secretary. "The results of this project will contribute to an overall thematic assessment on hazardous substances in Baltic Sea region to be ready by 2010, including further development of indicators and necessary actions under the HELCOM's plan."

"Occurrence of hazardous substances in marine environment will be mainly analysed in fish, but sea water will be surveyed also," said Jukka Mehtonen, Project Manager at HELCOM. "Substances to be studied include e.g. dioxins, tributyltin (TBT), perfluorinated substances and nonylphenols. All substances will be chemically measured, except for dioxins, furans & dioxin-like PCBs. Already existing information on their occurrence and contamination levels in the eastern Baltic marine environment will be compiled from various sources."

The sampling is now on-going and will be completed by the end of September 2008, said Mehtonen. Ten sampling sites will be studied in order to assess levels of contamination in the eastern part of Baltic Sea. All chemical analyses will be performed by one laboratory, located at the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, in order to ensure e.g. sub-regional comparability. They will be ready by the end of May 2009.

This project is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and co-ordinated by HELCOM. It is considered an integral part of the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan which was adopted by the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in Krakow in November 2007.

Pollution involving hazardous substances is considered one of the major problems affecting the state of the Baltic marine environment. Hazardous substances include contaminants such as dioxins, PCBs, TBT, PFOS and heavy metals. Once released into the sea, hazardous substances can remain in the marine environment for very long periods and accumulate in the marine food web. Hazardous substances cause adverse effects in ecosystems, including health and reproductive problems in animals, especially top predators. Certain contaminants may be hazardous because of their effects on hormone and immune systems, as well as their toxicity, persistence and bio-accumulating properties. Some fish caught in the Baltic Sea, particularly herring and salmon, contain concentrations of hazardous substances that exceed maximum allowable levels for foodstuffs as defined by EU.

HELCOM has already set a zero-emission target for all hazardous substances in the whole Baltic Sea catchment area by 2020.

Follow-up:

More detailed information on project can be found at HELCOM web sites: http://www.helcom.fi/projects/on_going/en_GB/hs_screening/

Note to Editors:

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organisation of all the nine Baltic Sea countries and the EU which works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation.

HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area", known as the Helsinki Convention.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Jukka Mehtonen

Project Manager

HELCOM

Tel: +358 (0) 207 412 633

Fax: +358 (0)207 412 639

E-mail: jukka.mehtonen@helcom.fi

Mr. Nikolay Vlasov

Information Secretary

HELCOM

Tel: +358 (0)207 412 635

Fax: +358 (0)207 412 639

E-mail: nikolay.vlasov@helcom.fi