Researchers from Hokkaido University recently conducted a case study that confirms the detrimental effects of open waste burning on air quality in Northwestern Greenland. The results were published by the Atmospheric Science Letters, laying out the need for comprehensive and sustainable air quality monitoring in Arctic regions to protect public health.

Gage Edwards, Content Producer

April 2, 2024

2 Min Read
Pulsar Imagens / Alamy Stock Photo

Researchers from Hokkaido University recently conducted a case study that confirms the detrimental effects of open waste burning on air quality in Northwestern Greenland. The results were published by the Atmospheric Science Letters, laying out the need for comprehensive and sustainable air quality monitoring in Arctic regions to protect public health.

Research was centered around Qaanaaq, a small village in Northwestern Greenland home to roughly 600 residents. The first measurement of particulate matter (PM2.5) was conducted in the summer of 2022, which revealed an increase in PM2.5 pollution.

PM2.5 refers to small particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, like dust and smoke. This type of pollution is associated with severe air pollution, which poses significant health risks such as asthma, bronchitis, cardiovascular diseases, and premature death.

The research team collected continuous PM2.5 data from July 20 to August 13, 2022, by using commercially available advanced PM2.5 measurement systems for cold regions. The team found multiple instances of increased PM2.5 with noticeable results found from August 8. Increases in PM2.5 levels came from local open waste burning activities from the Qaanaaq dump site.

Researchers did note that pollutants from other outside sources beyond the study area could have also contributed to results during the early stages of the study. However, further analysis indicated those pollutant contributions were minimal. This further highlighted the undeniable impacts of local pollution sources affecting the air quality in Qaanaaq. Further analysis based on the NOAA HYSPLIT online dispersion simulations suggests that particulate matter depositions from the open waste burning reached nearby seas areas, such as Baffin Bay.

"This is the first time we've studied PM2.5 in a small Arctic residential area of Northwestern Greenland where we didn't know the air quality before. We found out how much pollution increases with PM2.5 during local open waste burning," said Associate Professor & Distinguished Researcher Teppei J. Yasunari of the Arctic Research Center.

"Now, Qaanaaq uses an incinerator, stopping open waste burning. But continuous air quality monitoring is crucial because pollution doesn't choose timing or stop at borders.”

Yasunari led the research team and was joined by researchers from Hokkaido University, the University of Tsukuba, Nagoya University, and NASA.

About the Author(s)

Gage Edwards

Content Producer, Waste360

Gage Edwards is a Content Producer at Waste360 and seasoned video editor.

Gage has spent the better part of 10 years creating content in various industries but mostly revolving around video games.

Gage loves video games, theme parks, and loathes littering.

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