As part of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), we assessed pregnancy outcome among Sami and Norwegian populations of Finnmark County in Norway and Russians living in the Kola Peninsula of Russia using body mass index of the newborn child (BMIC) as the main indicator; concentrations of essential and toxic elements in biological fluids of delivering women and their children served as additional sources of information. At the hospitals of Hammerfest and Kirkenes in the period November 1993-June 1994 a total of 107 consecutive women gave birth to a child, of whom 15 regarded themselves as Sami. The Russian group (N = 151) delivered their children in the same period. The Sami women were significantly older than the Russian group (28.5 versus 25.1 years, p = 0.04). The mean birth weight was significantly lower in the Sami group compared to non-Sami Norwegians (p = 0.01), but was of comparable magnitude to that recorded in Russia (p = 0.4). For BMIC, the Sami and non-Sami Norwegian results were similar (p = 0.2); both were significantly higher than in Russia (p < 0.001). The essential elements copper, zinc, selenium and iron (as ferritin) in serum showed no differences between the groups, although relatively low levels of serum zinc were documented in all populations studied. Blood cadmium concentrations were strongly related to smoking frequency. Blood lead and urinary nickel levels were significantly higher for the Russian mothers, but did not reach levels of medical concern.
Conclusion: No ethnic differences in concentrations of essential elements in biological fluids, nor of cadmium and mercury, were observed. However, national differences for lead and nickel were evident. Because of small sample size, these conclusions need confirmation. The similar BMIC values observed for the non-Sami Norwegian and Sami newborns, compared to the Russian group, suggest that BMIC may serve as a good indicator of the nutritional status and possibly also the general health condition of neonates.