Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and ecosystems. POPs can be globally transported through vast circle and bioaccumulated in human bodies or animal tissues through food chains. They are intensively carcinogenic and toxic to human beings as well as wildlife, causing damage to nervous, digestive, and immune systems, even at extremely low levels. Twelve POPs, including eight pesticides (e.g., aldrin, chlordane, and DDT), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene, furans, and dioxins, have been internationally recognized as per the Stockholm Convention; and more candidates are under review, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), lindane, and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE). The elevated levels of POPs in local wildlife and humans have raised serious concerns in recent years particularly in cold regions like northern Canada. Most POPs have been banned for decades; however they are still present at high concentrations in the environment due to their persistence in the environment and ability of long-range transportation. For instance, a high level of organochlorine pesticides in food and of PCBs in human breast milk of Inuit populations has been recently reported. Since natural conditions (e.g. cold weather and relatively low incidence of sunlight, resulting in a decrease in both biotic and abiotic degradation) are different from other parts of the world, there are limitations with conventional technologies for POPs mitigation in the North. These unmanageable characteristics of the compounds hinder Canada’s efforts to effectively protect northern environments. In addition, climate change may accelerate the transportation and release of POPs and alter its global distribution status. The resulting alterations in food webs, lipid dynamics, ice and snow melt, and organic carbon cycling could lead to increased POP levels in water, soil, and biota.
The Northern Region Persistent Organic Pollution Control (NRPOP) Laboratory is founded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Industrial Research and Innovation Funds (IRIF) of Newfoundland and Labrador Government. The lab is equipped with a multi-scale experimental system which can be used to support model development through simulating the transport processes of POPs and their degradation products, testing the effects of pollution control and remediation practices, and gathering data for driving and validating models. The major experimental facilities include: 1) a series of batch-/bench-/pilot-scale reactors to examine and simulate pollutant transport and fate and test control and remediation technologies under controlled environmental conditions; 2) advanced analytical instruments such as a newest model of gas chromatography-mass spectrograph (GC/MS) system (i.e., Agilent 7890A GC and 5975C VL MSD, equipped with sample concentrator and autosampler) and field monitoring and sampling tools such as automated weather/gauging stations and air/water/soil sampling kits; and 3) an image/data acquisition-analysis system containing image capture and processing facilities and versatile computer-based data conditioning and acquisition equipments. With a strong commitment to northern regions, this first-class laboratory aims to conduct integrated modeling and experimental research on the development of innovative investigation, simulation, control and remediation technologies that are applicable to mitigate the contamination caused by persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The research in the NRPOP lab will not only enhance researchers’ understanding of the pollution mechanisms but also help governments and industries improve their practices for mitigation of the POPs-related pollution problems, leading to short-/long-term environmental, economic and social benefits.