Concentration of organochlorines in human brain, liver, and adipose tissue autopsy samples from Greenland

Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Oct;107(10):823-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.99107823.


Organochlorines are persistent lipophilic compounds that accumulate in Inuit people living in circumpolar countries. Organochlorines accumulate as a result of the Inuits' large consumption of sea mammal fat; however, available data are limited to blood lipids, milk fat, and adipose tissue. We report results of organochlorine determination in liver, brain, omental fat, and subcutaneous abdominal fat samples collected from deceased Greenlanders between 1992 and 1994. Eleven chlorinated pesticides and 14 polychlorinated biphenyl congeners were measured in tissue lipid extracts by high-resolution gas chromatography with electron capture detection. Mean concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, 2, 2'-bis(4-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dichloroethylene, ss-hexachlorocyclohexane, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, trans-nonachlor, and oxychlordane in adipose tissue samples from Greenlanders were 3-34-fold higher than those measured using the same analytical method in samples from Canadians in Quebec City, Quebec. Brain lipids contained lower concentrations of all organochlorines than lipids extracted from other tissues. Organochlorine residue levels in lipid extracts from liver, omental fat, and subcutaneous abdominal fat samples were similar, with the exception of ss-hexachlorocyclohexane, which reached a greater concentration in liver lipids than in lipids from both adipose tissues (4-fold; p < 0. 05). Comparisons with available international data on adipose tissue levels reveal that the organochlorine body burden in the Inuit population of Greenland is presently among the highest resulting from environmental exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry*
  • Autopsy
  • Body Burden
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / analysis*
  • Liver / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*


  • Insecticides
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls