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Sci Total Environ. 2007 Jan 1;372(2-3):486-96. Epub 2006 Dec 6.

Contaminants, diet, plasma fatty acids and smoking in Greenland 1999-2005.

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  • 1Centre of Arctic Environmental Medicine, Aarhus University, Vennelyst Boulevard 6, DK 8000, Aarhus, Denmark.



The purpose of this study is to monitor and assess human exposure to pollution in the Arctic which presents a potential future health risk for the local populations. Epidemiological studies in Greenland have shown that human blood levels of several organic contaminants are very high, especially in the North where people depend on local food. In East Greenland (Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund)) the population shows the highest blood levels of several persistent organic pollutants found in Arctic countries, especially PCB, the levels of which exceed Canadian guideline levels. As in other Arctic countries, the predominant source of these contaminants is the local diet. However, other factors such as smoking may influence the metabolism and thereby the accumulation of toxic substances.


This project is part of the human health program of the ongoing circumpolar "Artic Monitoring and Assessment Programme". Lifestyle, anthropometric factors, and dietary survey results covering 500 men and women from 6 Greenlandic districts were analyzed along with other factors blood lipids, fatty acid profiles, heavy metals and concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).


The dietary survey showed that the traditional food on the average provided 20-30% of the total energy intake. However, the relative monthly meal intake of seal, whale, polar bear, fish and game, and the composition of imported food, varied between districts. Seal and polar bear intake, and, in particular all the plasma n-3 fatty acids, were significantly correlated with organic contaminant concentrations, (betaHCH, chlordanes, DDTs, Hexachlorobenzene, Mirex, PCBs, and toxaphenes) p<0.01(). After adjusting for age, district, dietary factors or plasma n-3 fatty acids, smoking was significantly correlated with high levels of all the above mentioned POPs.


The main predictors of high contaminant levels in Greenland were age, district, male gender, smoking and high plasma n-3/n-6 ratio as a marker of high dietary intake of local marine mammals.

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