The Inuit population of Nunavik (Canada) is exposed to immunotoxic organochlorines (OCs) mainly through the consumption of fish and marine mammal fat. We investigated the effect of perinatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) on the incidence of acute infections in Inuit infants. We reviewed the medical charts of a cohort of 199 Inuit infants during the first 12 months of life and evaluated the incidence rates of upper and lower respiratory tract infections (URTI and LRTIs, respectively), otitis media, and gastrointestinal (GI) infections. Maternal plasma during delivery and infant plasma at 7 months of age were sampled and assayed for PCBs and DDE. Compared to rates for infants in the first quartile of exposure to PCBs (least exposed), adjusted rate ratios for infants in higher quartiles ranged between 1.09 and 1.32 for URTIs, 0.99 and 1.39 for otitis, 1.52 and 1.89 for GI infections, and 1.16 and 1.68 for LRTIs during the first 6 months of follow-up. For all infections combined, the rate ratios ranged from 1.17 to 1.27. The effect size was similar for DDE exposure but was lower for the full 12-month follow-up. Globally, most rate ratios were > 1.0, but few were statistically significant (p
Motor deficits have frequently been reported in methylmercury (MeHg) poisoning in adults. However, whether exposure to neurotoxic contaminants from environmental sources early in life is associated with neuromotor impairments has received relatively little attention. This study examines the relation of developmental exposure to MeHg, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and lead to motor function in school-age Inuit children exposed through their traditional diet.
In a prospective study in Nunavik, children (mean age=11.3years) were assessed on a battery of fine motor tasks, namely the Stanford-Binet Copying subtest (N=262), the Santa Ana Form Board, and the Finger Tapping Test (N=215). The relation of mercury (Hg; as an index of MeHg exposure), PCB congener 153 (PCB153), and lead concentrations in cord and current blood samples to task performance was examined using linear regression analyses.
After adjustment for potential confounders and control for the other contaminants, higher current PCB concentrations were associated with poorer Santa Ana Form Board and Finger Tapping performance. Results were virtually identical when PCB153 was replaced by other PCB congeners. Higher current Hg levels were independently associated with poorer Finger Tapping performance.
This is the first prospective longitudinal study in children to provide evidence of neuromotor impairments associated with postnatal exposure to seafood contaminants from environmental sources. Fine motor speed appears particularly sensitive to the effects of postnatal PCB exposure, which is unusually high in this population. Results with postnatal MeHg are concordant with previous cross-sectional studies with children and adults.
Organochlorine chemicals accumulate in the environment, particularly in the Arctic, and constitute potential developmental hazards to wildlife and human health. Although some of their harmful effects are recognized, their mechanisms of action within the target cells need to be better understood. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that an environmentally-relevant organochlorine mixture alters oocyte ultrastructure in the porcine model. Immature cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs), partially cultured (18 hr) COCs without treatment or exposed to the organochlorine mixture or its vehicle (0.1% dimethysulfoxide; DMSO) during culture were processed for light and transmission electronic microscopy (TEM). The organochlorines induced major ultrastructural changes in the COCs: decreased density of the lipid droplets, increased smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER) volume and increased interactions among SER, mitochondria, lipid droplets and vesicles. We suggest that these ultrastructural changes facilitate energy formation necessary to produce metabolizing enzymes. Other ultrastructural changes may reflect some degree of organochlorine toxicity: fewer gap junctions and decreased electron density of the cortical granules. Unexpectedly, the DMSO control treatment also induced similar ultrastructural changes, but to a lesser degree than the organochlorine mixture. This study is the first to demonstrate the effect of environmental contaminants on mammalian oocyte ultrastructure.
Cadmium (Cd), a nonessential toxic metal present in the environment, accumulates in the organs of herbivorous mammals which typically are consumed by Aboriginal populations. The relative contribution of this potential exposure source to concentrations of blood Cd was investigated in 1429 participants (age >7 years) residing in the nine Cree First Nations communities of Eeyou Istchee, northern Quebec, Canada. Analysis of variance identified significant Cd concentration differences between communities, sex, and age groups, although these were complicated by significant 2-way interactions. The percentage of participants with Cd concentrations within the adopted health-based guideline categories of 'acceptable', 'concern' and 'action' pertaining to kidney damage was 56.2%, 38.3%, and 5.5%, respectively. Partial correlations (controlling for age as a continuous variable) did not show a significant association between consumption of traditional foods and Cd concentrations (r = 0.014, df = 105, p = 0.883). A significant and positive partial correlation (r = 0.390, df = 105, p
Chronic exposure to methylmercury (MeHg), lead (Pb) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been associated with a range of attention deficits in children, but it is not known whether selective spatial attention is also altered. We modified the classic Posner paradigm, which assesses visuospatial attention, to also assess vigilance and impulsivity. This paradigm is based on the well-documented findings that a target will be detected more quickly if a visual cue indicates beforehand where it will appear, and more slowly if the cue indicates a false spatial location. In our task, visual distractors were introduced, in addition to the classic Posner trials, to assess impulsivity, and a central smiley face, whose eye-movement cued the location of the targets, to measure spatial attention. This task was administered to 27 school-age Inuit children (mean age=11.2years) from Nunavik (Arctic Quebec, Canada), in which pre- and postnatal exposures to environmental contaminants had been documented from birth. After controlling for the impact of confounding variables, multivariable regressions revealed that prenatal exposures to PCBs and Pb were significantly associated with greater inattention and impulsivity, respectively, while current exposure to Pb was significantly associated with longer reaction times. Although a significant correlation was observed between cord blood PCB concentration and decreased visuospatial performance, no significant association was found after adjustment for confounders. No effect was found for Hg exposures. These results suggest that our adapted Posner paradigm is sensitive in detecting a range of attention deficits in children exposed to environmental contaminants; implications for future studies are discussed.
The present study was aimed at assessing the health consequences of the presence of radon in Quebec homes and the possible impact of various screening programs on lung cancer mortality. Lung cancer risk due to this radioactive gas was estimated according to the cancer risk model developed by the Sixth Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiations. Objective data on residential radon exposure, population mobility, and tobacco use in the study population were integrated into a Monte-Carlo-type model. Participation rates to radon screening programs were estimated from published data. According to the model used, approximately 10% of deaths due to lung cancer are attributable to residential radon exposure on a yearly basis in Quebec. In the long term, the promotion of a universal screening program would prevent less than one death/year on a province-wide scale (0.8 case; IC 99%: -3.6 to 5.2 cases/year), for an overall reduction of 0.19% in radon-related mortality. Reductions in mortality due to radon by (1) the implementation of a targeted screening program in the region with the highest concentrations, (2) the promotion of screening on a local basis with financial support, or (3) the realization of systematic investigations in primary and secondary schools would increase to 1%, 14%, and 16.4%, respectively, in the each of the populations targeted by these scenarios. Other than the battle against tobacco use, radon screening in public buildings thus currently appears as the most promising screening policy for reducing radon-related lung cancer.
Recent evidence suggests that exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) increases the risk of hypertension in environmentally exposed populations. High POP levels have been detected in Arctic populations and the exposure is related to high consumption of fish and marine mammals, which represent the traditional diet of these populations.
We examined the associations between polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine (OC) pesticides and hypertension among Inuit from Nunavik (Quebec, Canada).
A complete set of data was obtained for 315 Inuit=18years who participated in the "Santé Québec" health survey that was conducted in the 14 villages of Nunavik in 1992. Fourteen polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and 8 OC pesticides or their metabolites were measured in plasma samples using gas chromatography with electron capture detection. Blood pressure (BP) was measured using a standardized protocol and information regarding anti-hypertensive medication was obtained through questionnaires. The associations between log-transformed POPs and hypertension (systolic BP=140mmHg, diastolic BP=90mmHg or anti-hypertensive medication) were analyzed using multiple logistic regressions.
Total PCBs as well as the sum of non-dioxin-like PCBs were significantly associated with higher risk of hypertension. Furthermore, the risk of hypertension increased with higher plasma concentrations of congeners 101, 105, 138 and 187. Models adjusted for BP risk factors became significant after including n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and further adjustment for lead and mercury did not change the results. Regarding OC pesticides, p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) was associated with increased risk of hypertension while inverse associations were observed with p,p'-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (p,p'-DDT), ß-hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) and oxychlordane.
Some PCB congeners were associated with higher risk of hypertension in this highly exposed population. Most associations became significant after including n-3 PUFAs in the models. However, the analyses of OC pesticides revealed divergent results, which need to be confirmed in further cohort and experimental studies.
Smoking during pregnancy is common among Inuit women from the Canadian Arctic. Yet prenatal cigarette smoke exposure (PCSE) is seen as a major risk factor for childhood behavior problems. Recent data also suggest that co-exposure to neurotoxic environmental contaminants can exacerbate the effects of PCSE on behavior. This study examined the association between PCSE and behavior at school age in a sample of Inuit children from Nunavik, Qu?bec, where co-exposure to environmental contaminants is also an important issue. Interactions with lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg), two contaminants associated with behavioral problems, were also explored.
Participants were 271 children (mean age=11.3years) involved in a prospective birth-cohort study. PCSE was assessed through maternal recall. Assessment of child behavior was obtained from the child's classroom teacher on the Teacher Report Form (TRF) and the Disruptive Behavior Disorders Rating Scale (DBD). Exposure to contaminants was assessed from umbilical cord and child blood samples. Other confounders were documented by maternal interview.
After control for contaminants and confounders, PCSE was associated with increased externalizing behaviors and attention problems on the TRF and higher prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) assessed on the DBD. No interactions were found with contaminants.
This study extends the existing empirical evidence linking PCSE to behavioral problems in school-aged children by reporting these effects in a population where tobacco use is normative rather than marginal. Co-exposure to Pb and Hg do not appear to exacerbate tobacco effects, suggesting that these substances act independently.
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To describe exposure to methylmercury among Cree, focusing on women of childbearing age, we used data from 2 studies. Multiple regression was employed to examine associations between blood and hair mercury concentrations and consumption of locally harvested fish. Approximately 9.9% of non-pregnant women aged 15-44 y and 3.9% of pregnant women required follow-up according to Health Canada's blood mercury guidance value of 40 nmol/L. 8% of hair mercury observations in the non-pregnant women and 2.5% among pregnant women exceeded the equivalent threshold of 10 nmol/g. The geometric mean blood mercury concentration was 12.7 nmol/L in 1,429 persons aged 8 and over, and 17.7 nmol/L in adults aged 18 and older. The proportion of hair mercury concentrations greater than 12.5 nmol/g decreased in all age-sex groups when comparing the 2002-2009 data to published values for 1993-1994. Among women of childbearing age, local fish consumption was associated with increased blood and hair mercury concentrations. While over 90% of women of childbearing age in this population have acceptable levels of mercury, ongoing intake of mercury suggests that their consumption of fish with known high mercury content be minimised. Reducing consumption of fish known to be high in mercury content needs to be balanced with promoting ongoing connection to Cree culture and land-based activities that are also important determinants of health.