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Published: 2015-08-27

Modeling organic contaminants in the Baltic Sea

Organic contaminants constitute one of many stressors that deteriorate
the ecological status of the Baltic Sea. The novel modeling tool BALTSEM-POP for organic contaminants also includes other types of stressors and provides many important management applications.

When managing environmental problems such as contaminants in the Baltic Sea, it may be necessary to consider the interactions between various stressors, such as climate change, to ensure that averting one problem does not exacerbate another.

A novel modeling tool for organic contaminants

In a recent AMBIO paper researchers from Stockholm University presents a novel modeling tool, BALTSEM-POP. The model simulates interactions between climate forcing, hydrodynamic conditions, and water exchange, biogeochemical cycling, and organic contaminant transport and fate in the Baltic Sea.

In the paper the authors discuss opportunities to use the model to support different aspects of chemicals management. These opportunities are exemplified with a case study where two emission-reduction strategies for a chemical used in personal care products (decamethylcyclopentasiloxane, or D5) are evaluated, and where the confounding influence of future climate change and eutrophication on the impact of the emission-reduction strategies are assessed.

D5 in personal care products

D5 is a high production volume industrial chemical used in silicon polymer production and as a carrier in personal care products such as shampoo and deodorants. The use of personal care products containing D5 is the largest source of its emissions to the environment. D5 possesses unusual physical chemical properties and is classified as a suspected very persistent and very bioaccumulative chemical in the EU risk assessment.

Reducing D5 in the Baltic Sea

The results of this study shows that to reduce levels of D5 in the Baltic Sea, the best strategy is to reduce D5 emissions to water. The areas of the Baltic Sea where climate change is likely to have greatest impact on D5 concentrations in the surface water are those with seasonal ice cover. A reduction in sea ice-extent due to climate change is predicted to lower the concentrations of this chemical in winter because the ice acts as a lid, and without it the volatile D5 escapes the surface water via volatilization.

Important Management tool

- The case study for D5 exemplifies how BALTSEM-POP can be used in a simple way to support chemicals management in the Baltic Sea, says researcher Emma Undeman.

The model can be used to compare how efficient alternative emission-reduction measures are. And to compare sensitivities of the different basins to pollution and to establish region-specific emission-reduction goals. Further, BALTSEM-POP can increase our understanding about emission sources and transport routes of organic contaminants in the Baltic Sea.

- The model can also provide important information for interpretation and optimization of monitoring programs and be used in screening for emerging contaminants using Baltic Sea-specific selection criteria, Emma Undeman concludes.


Title: Application of a novel modeling tool with multistressor functionality to support management of organic contaminants in the Baltic Sea.

Journal: Ambio June 2015, 44(Suppl 3), pages 498–506

Authors: Emma Undeman, Bo G. Gustafsson, Christoph Humborg and Michael S. McLachlan from Baltic Nest Institute and ACES at Stockholm University.

Download the paper

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Web editor: Marmar Nekoro

Updated: 2015-08-28
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