Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec - Axe Santé des Populations et Pratiques Optimales en Santé, Hôpital Saint-Sacrement, 1050 Chemin Ste-Foy, Québec, QC G1S 4L8, Canada; Faculté des sciences infirmières, Université Laval, Pavillon Ferdinand Vandry 1050, avenue de la Médecine, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada. Electronic address: email@example.com.
The Inuit of Nunavik (Northern Quebec, Canada) are exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury (Hg) through their consumption of marine country foods. A temporal trend study was initiated in 1992 to monitor circulating levels of PCBs and Hg in pregnant Inuit women, since the fetus is most at risk of adverse health effects. We set out (1) to describe temporal trends of PCBs and Hg levels in pregnant Nunavik women between 1992 and 2017; (2) to determine the prevalence of participants exceeding the guidance values in 2017; (3) to investigate relations between marine country food intake and contaminant levels over the study period. A total of 559 pregnant women provided a blood sample for contaminant analysis from 1992 to 2017. PCB congeners were quantified in plasma (serum) by gas chromatography (GC) coupled to electron capture detection or mass spectrometry (MS). We determined whole blood mercury concentration by cold vapor atomic absorption or inductively-coupled plasma MS. We performed multilevel modeling to assess temporal trends in contaminant levels and relations with marine country food consumption. Concentrations of total PCBs and Hg decreased by 84% and 65% between 1992 and 2017, respectively. Nevertheless, 10% and 22% of women in 2017 exceeded guidance values for PCBs and Hg, respectively. While the decline in marine country food intake is the only factor associated with decreasing Hg levels, other factors may explain the decline in PCB levels. Despite the significant decline in PCBs and Hg levels from 1992 to 2017, exposure to these contaminants is still quite prevalent among pregnant Nunavik women. Most of the decline in Hg exposure is likely due to a shift away from marine country foods to store-bought foods, which is a concern given the cultural and nutritional importance of country foods and the high food insecurity that prevails in Nunavik.