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Thawing permafrost may unleash industrial pollution across the Arctic

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As the Arctic’s icebound ground warms, it may unleash toxic substances across the region.

By the end of the century, the thaw threatens to destabilize facilities at more than 2,000 industrial sites, such as mines and pipelines, and further compromise more than 5,000 already contaminated areas, researchers report March 28 in Nature Communications.

Those numbers come from the first comprehensive study to pinpoint where Arctic permafrost thaw could release industrial pollutants. But there are probably even more contaminated areas that we don’t know about, says permafrost researcher Moritz Langer of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany. “We only see the tip of the iceberg.”

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