Assessing determinants of maternal blood concentrations for persistent organic pollutants and metals in the eastern and western Canadian Arctic

Aboriginal peoples in the Canadian Arctic are exposed to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and metals mainly through their consumption of a traditional diet of wildlife items. Recent studies indicate that many human chemical levels have decreased in the north, likely due to a combination of reduced global chemical emissions, dietary shifts, and risk mitigation efforts by local health authorities. Body burdens for chemicals in mothers can be further offset by breastfeeding, parity, and other maternal characteristics. During this study, the authors have assessed the impact of several dietary and maternal covariates following a decade of awareness of the contaminant issue in northern Canada, by performing multiple stepwise linear regression analyses from blood concentrations and demographic variables for 176 mothers recruited from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories during the period 2005-2007. A significant aboriginal group effect was observed for the modelled chemicals, except for lead and cadmium, after adjusting for covariates. Further, blood concentrations for POPs and metals were significantly associated with at least one covariate of older age, fewer months spent breastfeeding, more frequent eating of traditional foods, or smoking during pregnancy. Cadmium had the highest explained variance (72.5%) from just two significant covariates (current smoking status and parity). Although Inuit participants from the Northwest Territories consumed more traditional foods in general, Inuit participants from coastal communities in Nunavut continued to demonstrate higher adjusted blood concentrations for POPs and metals examined here. While this is due in part to a higher prevalence of marine mammals in the eastern Arctic diet, it is possible that other aboriginal group effects unrelated to diet may also contribute to elevated chemical body burdens in Canadian Arctic populations.

Authors: Curren MS, Liang CL, Davis K, Kandola K, Brewster J, Potyrala M, Chan HM. ;Full Source: Science of the Total Environment. 2015 May 8;527-528C:150-158. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.04.079. [Epub ahead of print] ;