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  Polar bears threatened by toxins
Updated 14 September 2004, 15.53
Polar bear in Canada - CREDIT: (c) WWF / Fritz PÍLKING
Polar bears are under threat because they're eating man-made chemicals that are contaminating their Arctic home.

Research by the World Wildlife Fund found many bears now have hundreds of harmful substances in their bodies.

This means they find it harder to fight off diseases and infections and might find it difficult to have babies.

It's estimated there are only 22,000 bears living in the Arctic and they're home is already being threatened by global warming and melting ice.

Toxic environment

Svalbard has as many bears as people (Image: Svein B Oppegaard)
Many of the toxic chemicals harming the bears were banned years ago, but can still be found in the sea, ice and soil.

That's because poisons from things like plastics and electrical goods can take years to break down and disappear.

But they're carried long distances in water and eventually seep into food eaten by smaller animals and fish.

Satellite pictures also show most of the arctic area has warmed up over the last 10 years, so the ice is shrinking and the bears are losing their hunting grounds.

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Past StoriesBORDER=0
Melting ice threatens polar bears
Ice cap melts as Arctic heats up
Polar bears could be wiped out in 100 years
White Christmas for Australian polar bears
Human-made poisons are killing polar bears

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