The subject of this scientific investigation is the transport and fate of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The scientists suggest that the physical chemistry of POPs plus the seasonal change in the sea ice causes the entry of POPs into the food web of the Antarctic coastal waters.
POPs have been called "hand-me-down poisons that threaten wildlife and people" (World Wildlife Fund). The United Nations Environment Programme lists twelve of them as "The Dirty Dozen." They are serious environmental problems that have world-wide effects. So, it is appropriate that learners investigate the topic more fully. These investigations are examples of the following National Science Education Standards: Science as Inquiry, Physical Science, Earth Science, Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, and the History and Nature of Science. Learners who are preparing for the GED tests might be interested to know that these standards are the organizing topics of the GED Science Exam.
A place to start will be the information about the POPs team in Antarctica:
Another excellent resource is the PBS Frontline Report, "Fooling with Natureare man-made chemicals in the environment hazardous to humans?" This website contains resources, a special report, and an online quiz. There is also an excellent article about the challenges in science reporting and the problems in reporting bad science.
Here are some ideas for learning activities:
1. Suggest that learners do some research on an individual persistent organic pollutant. A good starting place is the World Wildlife Fund website, which has individual fact sheets on a number of the POPs. Learners might want maps of the world and of the individual continents on which to note the producers and users of POPs.
Possible topics for research about each POP are
2. More than one hundred of the worlds countries have been working on a treaty to ban the production and use of these chemicals. In May 2001, diplomats from around the world came to Stockholm, Sweden, to sign an agreement to limit POPs. Learners can follow the progress of this international treaty by reading the initial declaration and then checking to see how many countries ratify the treaty. These specific websites will be useful for this investigation.
General web resources-- for more information, here is the list of websites about POPs: