Botulism is a rare and serious form of food poisoning and was diagnosed for the first time in the East Coast of Greenland. Historical reports suggest that outbreaks of this condition have occurred previously in this region. In 1990, however, the presence of Clostridium botulinum type E could be confirmed with certainty. Eight individuals partook of a meal which consisted of raw seal meat and raw seal intestines. Four of these developed symptoms of botulism and two of these required assisted ventilation. On the basis of this experience, the medical officers of health in Greenland recommend that all hospitals in Greenland should maintain a supply of antitoxin.
An analysis for cadmium was made of 101 human blood samples from the district of Angmagssalik, East Greenland, and 29 from East Greenlanders living temporarily in Copenhagen. No relationship could be found between concentrations of blood cadmium and ethnic origin (Eskimos--Danes), sex, age or amount of seal eaten. Only smoking habits were reflected, as a median of 2.2 micrograms/l was found in smokers and 1.1 in non-smokers. Since analyses of organs from seals have suggested that the WHO provisional, tolerable weekly intake is exceeded by a factor as high as 10 as a result of seal eating, it is surprising that seal eating is without any effect on the blood concentration.
The concentration of lead in 175 blood samples originating from the district of Angmagssalik, East Greenland and 130 from Aarhus, Denmark, has been determined. Both Greenland and Danish males had significantly higher (5%) blood lead than females (Eskimoan males 14.8 micrograms Pb/100 ml, females 12.8 micrograms Pb/100 ml; Danish males 10.5 micrograms Pb/100 ml, females 7.7 micrograms Pb/100 ml). For Danes living temporarily in Greenland the values were: males 10.5 and females 10.2 micrograms Pb/100 ml. Eskimos of both sexes were found to have higher blood lead values than Danes living in the same area. Danish males from Greenland and Denmark were not found to be different, whereas Danish women living in Greenland had a significantly higher (5%) mean value than women living in Denmark. In the Eskimo group, but not in the Danish, a weak, positive, but significant age correlation was found. 4 samples of Eskimo origin exceeded 35 micrograms Pb/100 ml accepted in the EEC as a maximum value for non-occupationally exposed persons. When re-examined 5 months later, all values were below this limit. The influence of eating habits (local or imported food) and smoking habits was tested, but not found to influence the blood lead concentration. The results have confirmed that blood lead levels in Greenland are comparable to those found in European industrialized areas. The reason for the unexpected high level in the arctic area with minimum car driving and industry remains to be clarified.
The concentration of mercury in 178 blood samples and 32 hair samples from the Angmagssalik district in East Greenland has been determined. For Greenlanders mercury concentrations are highly dependent on the amount of seal eaten. In the most heavily exposed group (eating more than six meals of seal per week), a significant positive correlation between blood mercury and age was demonstrated. No differences according to sex were demonstrated when the mean values were corrected for influence of age. In the most heavily exposed group, a mean value of 62.5 micrograms Hg/l was found, while in the group eating 1 meal of seal or less per week, the mean value was 22.2 micrograms Hg/l. In the control group consisting of Danes living temporarily in the district, the mean blood mercury concentration was 5.8 corresponding to the fact that they eat seal only occasionally. Hair mercury concentrations were found to correlate well with blood mercury concentrations (r=0.9222). The hair/blood ratio was estimated to 289. It is concluded that the present relatively high mercury exposure in Greenland does not exert any immediate risk of intoxication to the adult population, but supplementary investigation on fetal exposure is needed.
138 Blood samples and 12 hair samples from the district of Angmagssalik, East Greenland, have been analysed for selenium and mercury. It was found that selenium like mercury, was absorbed in accordance with the amount of marine food eaten. The mean blood concentration in the group eating most marine food was 173 and 186 micrograms Hg/1 for men and women, respectively, while in the group eating the lowest quantity of marine food, the mean values were 86 and 118 micrograms Hg/1. In blood, the selenium and mercury did not correlate in individuals, but only in groups according to eating habits. On a molar basis, selenium is present in blood in excess as compared to mercury, while the opposite is the case for hair. It is concluded that only part of the selenium interacts with mercury, and that blood, but not hair, reflects present dietary intake. The righ supply of selenium in relation to mercury exposure through the traditional arctic food is probably able to alleviate the hazards from dietary mercury exposure.
The mutagenicity of the chromosomes of the peripheral lymphocytes of 147 Greenlandic Eskimos living in the district of Angmagssalik, Greenland, and in Denmark, was evaluated by means of the sister chromatid exchange (SCE) test. Thirty cells from each person were examined. The purpose of the investigation was to determine if there was any relationship between mutagenic activity and diet, and hence the elements selenium, cadmium, mercury and lead. The probands were divided into three groups according to their intake of seal meat or industrially prepared food: group 1, those eating seal at least six times per week; group 2, two to five times per week; and group 3 once each week or not at all. The statistical analysis was performed by means of multiple linear regression analyses, with diet, living district, sex, age, tobacco smoking, and blood lead and mercury concentrations as variables. Forty-eight percent of the variation in SCE could be explained by differences in diet, living district, age, and tobacco consumption. Groups 1 and 2 had a 1.7 and 0.65 times higher SCE/cell, respectively, than group 3. For every additional 10 years of age of the probands, the SCE/cell increased by 0.4, and for every 10 g of tobacco smoked per day the SCE/cell was 0.7 higher compared to non-smokers. When priority was given to blood Hg concentration in the calculation, 16.3% of the total variation in SCE/cell could be explained. An increase in the blood Hg concentration of 10 micrograms l-1 corresponded to an increase of 0.3 SCE/cell. In 92 individuals blood Se and Cd concentrations were also analysed. The variables, tobacco smoking, diet, living district and Cd explained 53% of the total variation in SCE. Giving priority to the blood Hg and Cd concentrations, explained 21.4% of the total variation in SCE/cell. An increase of 10 micrograms l-1 in blood Cd and Hg corresponded to an increase in SCE/cell of 0.7 and 0.2, respectively. No influence on the SCE/cell could be attributed to the blood Pb and Se concentrations. Evaluated by the SCE test, seal diet, smoking, living district and blood Hg and Cd concentrations all contribute to mutagenicity in Greenlandic Eskimos, with seal diet as the most important of the factors examined.
The oxidation of sparteine and mephenytoin was examined in a group of subjects living in Greenland: 300 in East Greenland and 171 in West Greenland. The distribution of the ratio between the chromatographic peak areas of S- and R-mephenytoin in the urine, the S/R ratio was clearly bimodal in both populations. Thus 9.3% of the East Greenlanders had S/R ratios of 0.9 or more and were phenotyped as poor metabolizers of mephenytoin. In the West Greenlanders, 2.9% of the sample had S/R ratios of 0.90 or more and were accordingly phenotyped as poor metabolizers. The intraethnic difference with regard to the frequency of the mephenytoin poor metabolizer is probably attributable in part to a much higher proportion of admixed Caucasian genes in the West Greenlanders than in the East Greenlanders. In both the East and the West Greenlanders, the sparteine metabolic ratio displayed marked interindividual differences without a clear bimodal distribution. Poor metabolizers arbitrarily defined as subjects with an metabolic ratio of 20 or more made up 3.3% of the East Greenlanders and 2.3% of the West Greenlanders, but the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant.