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Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Feb;112(2):113-20.

Human exposure monitoring and evaluation in the Arctic: the importance of understanding exposures to the development of public health policy.

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  • 1Center for Risk and Integrated Strategies, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Arctic indigenous peoples face significant challenges resulting from the contamination of Arctic air, water, and soil by persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and radionuclides. International cooperative efforts among governments and research institutions are under way to collect the information needed by environmental health scientists and public health officials to address environmental contamination in the Arctic. However, the climatic, political, and cultural conditions of the land and its native populations combine to present a unique set of scientific and logistic challenges to addressing this important public health issue. Public health officials have the responsibility to respect the cultural traditions of indigenous communities, while simultaneously designing strategies that will reduce their exposure to environmental contaminants and rates of disease and dysfunction. Researchers can better understand the link between environmental exposures and disease through monitoring programs for both the subsistence diets and health status of the indigenous populations. We suggest that the incorporation of community-based participatory research methods into programs designed to assess biomarkers of contaminant exposure in children and adults may be a valuable addition to ongoing and newly developed research programs. This approach could serve as a model for international environmental health initiatives, because it involves the participation of the local communities and seeks to builds trust between all stakeholders.

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