High organochlorine concentrations have been found among the Inuit in eastern Canada and in Greenland. The present study was undertaken to assess the exposure to organochlorines in relation to age, sex, and diet in a general population sample of Inuit from Greenland. Survey data and plasma concentrations of 14 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners and 16 pesticides, including 5 toxaphene congeners, were recorded in a random population survey of 408 adult indigenous Greenlanders. In a two-stage design, the survey response rate was 66%, and 90% of those randomly selected for blood testing participated. This was equivalent to an overall response rate of 59%. The median plasma concentration of the sum of PCB congeners was 13.3 microg/L; the lipid-adjusted value was 2109 microg/kg. The PCB concentration was twice as high as among the Inuit of Nunavik, Canada, 25 times higher than in a control group from southern Canada, and several times higher than the values found in European studies. Concentrations were similarly elevated for all PCB congeners and pesticides. The PCB congener pattern was similar to previous observations from the eastern Canadian Arctic and Greenland. Concentrations showed statistically significant positive associations with age, marine diet, and male sex in multiple linear regression analyses. The exceptionally high plasma concentrations of several organochlorines among the Inuit of Greenland are attributed to a lifelong high intake of seafood, in particular marine mammals. Concentrations of PCB adjusted for the consumption of marine food increased until approximately 40 yr of age, which is equivalent to the birth cohorts of the early 1950s. The age pattern indicates that bioaccumulation of PCB started in the 1950s, which is a likely date for the introduction of the compounds into the Arctic environment.
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