Swedish exhibit explores Baltic Sea pollution

Magnus Breitholtz, left, at the opening of the apartment during Gotland's Almedalen week. (Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden)
Magnus Breitholtz, left, at the opening of the apartment during Gotland’s Almedalen week. (Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden)
The Baltic has long been called one of the world’s most polluted seas and researchers on hand at Almedalen Week are hoping to convince people that cleaning up the water starts at home.

On the docks of Visby, the medieval city on the island of Gotland, Christina Thimrén Andrews walks around a mock studio apartment, fit with a bathroom, kitchen and closet. The small flat, built inside a shipping container, is meant to show visitors how everyday household items can have a significant impact on the environment.

For example, Teflon, the chemical used as a non-stick coating for cooking ware, has been found in seals living in the Baltic. And medicine, from people flushing old prescriptions down the toilet or having the drugs pass through urine, is another source of pollution, one that water treatment plants aren’t equipped to handle.

“One of the worst things is plastic,” she tells Radio Sweden, “because when it reaches the sea it breaks apart into small micro-pieces.”

Christina Thimrén Andrews of the Sustainable Seas Initiative. (Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden)
Christina Thimrén Andrews of the Sustainable Seas Initiative. (Frank Radosevich / Radio Sweden)
Common toxins

The exhibition was developed in cooperation with Professor Magnus Breitholtz, who works with eco-toxicology at Stockholm’s University. He says the mock apartment deals with common environmental toxins that end up in the Baltic, in order to make the issue more concrete for the people who visit.

“We tried to focus on pretty much what common people can do in terms of not putting an extra load on the environment,” he says.

He says bringing that focus to Almedalen, a week that deals with politics and business, was an easy decision. And as for the assumption that the Baltic is the dirtiest sea on the plant, Breitholtz says it doesn’t really matter where it ranks when it comes to cleaning up the sea.

“We have problems that we need to solve; that’s the main message,” he says.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Supply barge adrift in the Arctic for months, Radio Canada International

China: China’s silk road plans could challenge Northern Sea Route, Blog by Mia Bennett

Finland:  Most luxury cruise liners still dumping sewage in Baltic Sea, Yle News

Greenland: Study finds increase in litter on Arctic seafloor, Blog by Mia Bennett

Russia: Submariners feed polar bears with garbage, Barents Observer

United States:  IMO completes Polar Code, regulating Arctic and Antarctic shipping, Alaska Dispatch News

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