PureAlps – Monitoring of Persistent Pollutants in the Alps

Cylindrical high- and low-volume sampler, in the background the Bavarian and Tyrolian AlpsBild vergrössern Sampling-Devices for immmisssion and deposition sampling at Mount Zugspitze

PureAlps is designed to protect the Alps from persistent chemicals which have a potential for accumulation in organisms and which are toxic. Regions with cold climates such as mountain ranges and the poles are especially prone to atmospheric input of such chemicals because of more pronounced condensation at lower temperatures.

A unique time series on persistent pollutants

PureAlps uses measurement devices at the highest research sites in Germany and Austria, the Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus at Mount Zugspitze, 2650 m asl, and the Sonnblick Observatory at Hoher Sonnblick, 3106 m asl. Starting with the precursor project MONARPOP (Monitoring of the Alpine Region on Persistent Organic Pollutants), concentrations of persistent chemicals in air and deposition (dust, rain- and snowfall) are recorded since 2005.

Within this unique time-series from both summits, it has been shown that beside very low air-concentrations, the input of chemicals such as dioxins and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) is comparably high. Additionally, it could be demonstrated that only 13% of substances which are banned internationally really show a decline in concentrations.

Sitting golden eagleBild vergrössern The golden eagle as a top-predator in the Alps accumulates persistent pollutants which might be a reason for its low reproductivity in the Bavarian Alps.

PureAlps is extending investigations to achieve a more complete picture: Additionally to measurements of air-concentrations and deposition, PureAlps investigates organisms such as “Gams” (rupicapra rupicapra), fishes, birds-eggs and honey-bees to assess the degree of bio-accumulation of the investigated chemicals.

PureAlps contributes to national and international chemicals regulation and serves as an early warning device for globally emerging pollutants.

Which substances are investigated?

Substances which are focus of PureAlps are:

  • Mercury,
    at present predominantly emitted from coal-fired power plants
  • Per- and polyfluorinated chemicals
    (PFC), used in many industrial processes and especially for dirt- and water-repellent surfaces in textile industry)
  • brominated flame retardants,
    such as HBCD (Hexabromocyclododecane) and PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers), which are used in a broad range of synthetic materials including heat-insulation material within the construction sector

UFS within the snow-covered rocks of the southern face of Mount ZugspitzeBild vergrössern The Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus (UFS) at Mount Zugspitze, 2.650 m asl.

Additionally PureAlps extends the time series for atmospheric concentrations and deposition of organochloro-pesticides (OCP), dioxins and furans, PCB and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

In effect, PureAlps is dealing with the majority of pollutants which are focus of international measures for mitigating chemicals emissions such as Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants and Minamata Convention on mercury.

Project duration and cooperating partners

PureAlps is funded for the German part by the Bavarian State Ministry of Environment and Consumer Protection with a runtime from 7/2016 to 5/2019 and for Austria by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management from 01/2017-01/2019.
Leading partners are:

  • Bavarian Environment Agency
  • Environment Agency Austria

Cooperating partners are:

  • Federal Environment Agency, Germany
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum München, Germany
  • Environmental Research Station Schneefernerhaus and Virtual Alpine Observatory, Germany
  • Sonnblick Observatory ZAMG - Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik, Austria
  • Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
  • Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Cell Toxicology, Germany
  • Department of Micrometeorology, University of Bayreuth, Germany

Local authorities and associations in Bavaria and Austria are contributing to the PureAlps.

Contact

If you are interested in the project, please contact:

Bavarian Environment Agency, Evaluation of Substances and Chemicals
Dr. Korbinian Freier, Tel.: +49-(0)-821-9071-5375, Dr. Korbinian Freier