High human plasma levels of organochlorine compounds in Greenland. Regional differences and lifestyle effects

Dan Med Bull. 2000 Apr;47(2):132-7.


Introduction: The purpose of the study has been to analyse data, collected for surveillance purposes under the Human Health Programme of AMAP (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, in Greenland, regarding geographical differences and lifestyle versus pollution load from persistent organic pollutants (POP), and to make possible exposure assessments. It comprises a regional study from six districts and an ongoing study of pregnant women and infants.

Methodology: Biostatistical analyses of data collected in Greenland from 61 men and 10 women from six different districts (1997-98) and from 110 mother-infant pairs in the Disko Bay area (1996-97) and 223 mother-infant pairs (1994-96). The data consisted of questionnaire answers and bloodsamples from men, women, and newborn infants (cord blood) analysed for fatty acids, selenium and 26 POPs including 14 PCB-congeners and four toxaphenes.

Results: Strong regional differences were found, related to different intakes of marine food with very high PCB-loads among men from the East coast. The various POP-plasma levels were mutually correlated and strong correlations were found between POP-plasma concentrations in mothers and new-born, R > 0.9, p < 0.0001. Among the pregnant women 95% surpassed the Canadian concern level for PCB, and 60% of the men from Scoresbysund surpassed the action level. The association between reported monthly food frequency and POPs was relatively weak, but the POPs were strongly correlated with plasma and erythrocyte n-3/n-6 fatty acid ratios as biomarkers of marine food intake. Multiple regression analysis showed highly significant positive correlation between smoking, and POP-plasma levels, after correction for age, alcohol intake, marine food, plasma lipids and n-3/n-6 fatty acid ratios.

Conclusion: As the most important determinants of high POP-plasma levels in Greenlanders we propose: age, high plasma n-3 fatty acids (marine food), East coast region, and being a smoker.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Greenland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated*
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides / adverse effects
  • Insecticides / blood*
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Insecticides