The distribution of pollutants amongst air, soil and water is a complex process affected by winds, tides, precipitation (especially floods) and, most recently, by climate change. This chapter reviews the essential components of this process and sets the stage for subsequent chapters with regard to specific pollutants and their sources. Pollutants can be exchanged amongst soil, water and air and transported thousands of kilometres away, potentially exerting toxic effects on all life forms. Mercury is used as an example to illustrate this phenomenon as it is pervasive in the environment, being found throughout the high arctic.
Keywords: Gaia hypothesis, chaos theory, contaminant distribution, atmospheric currents, hadley cells, ferrel cells, polar cells, coriolis effect, ocean currents, arctic pollution, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, sources of water contamination, migratory species.