Nunavimmiut helping to protect people from contaminants worldwide
New project hopes to study impact of country food contaminants on pregnant women
Several environmental contaminants emitted in the South—including mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs and DDT—travel around the globe and to the North on major air and ocean currents. Then they accumulate in some Arctic wildlife that are important country foods in Nunavik.
Over the past 30 years, we have monitored the exposure of Nunavimmiut to PCBs, mercury and lead, and studied their effects on Inuit health. In total, 3293 Nunavimmiut have participated in these studies since 1992.
These studies were the first to reveal high levels of exposure to environmental contaminants among pregnant mothers, even though no local source of these contaminants was found in Nunavik. This information was later used by the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the Canadian government to advocate for a ban on the production and use of PCBs and other POPs.
It was also critical for the establishment of the Stockholm Convention in 2004, which bans or restricts the production, uses and emissions of several POPs worldwide. Consequently, the level of PCBs have been decreasing over the past decades in the Arctic environment and wildlife and among Inuit, and other populations elsewhere around world.
Therefore, Inuit women in Nunavik who participated in this research have helped governments take action to protect pregnant women and children from PCBs all around the world!
These projects, mainly funded by teh Northern Contaminant Program of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, were only made possible thanks to the invaluable guidance and support of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services and the Nunavik Research Centre of the Makivik Corporation.
The Minamata Convention to reduce mercury emissions will enter into force shortly. This is the best long-term solution to ensure country food safety.
The collaboration of Inuit women from Nunavik is still very much needed. For example, a new project entitled Nutaratsaliit Qanuingisiarningit Niqituinnamut—Pregnancy Wellness with Country Foods—aims to provide more evidence to support global efforts to reduce mercury exposure and protect the health of Nunavimmiut.
If you are pregnant, you can get involved in this project. To know more about how you can help, you can contact the team via the Facebook page Nutaratsaliit Qanuingisiarningit Niqituinnamut by private messaging or talk with your health care giver.
On behalf of the Nunavik Nutrition and Health Committee (NNHC) and the researchers from Université Laval, Trent University, University at Manoa and Washington State University, we thank you for your collaboration.
Elena Labranche, Chair person of the NNHC, On behalf of NNHC members.
Mélanie Lemire, Gina Muckle, Pierre Ayotte, Chris Furgal, Amanda Boyd, Richard Bélanger, Michel Lucas, Catherine Pirkle, professors from Université Laval, Trent University, The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication of the Washington State University and University at Hawai’i in Manoa.
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