Dioxin-like compounds in fishing people from the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada

Arch Environ Health. 1997 Jul-Aug;52(4):309-16. doi: 10.1080/00039899709602204.


In this study, investigators assessed exposure to dioxin-like compounds in a fishing population that inhabits small coastal communities along the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, Quebec. This population relies heavily on wildlife foods for sustenance. Investigators analyzed chemically the most popular marine foods (i.e., fish, crustaceans, sea mammals, and sea-bird eggs), and they also obtained 25 human plasma samples from individuals in two villages along the river. The mean level of total polychlorinated biphenyls in this population was approximately twice that found in the entire fishing cohort. Plasma levels of dioxin-like compounds, expressed as tetrachlorodibenzodioxin toxic equivalents, were approximately eight times higher than levels in urban residents. Most of the increase in tetrachlorodibenzodioxin toxic equivalents in the selected fish eaters resulted primarily from an elevation in polychlorinated biphenyls. Concentrations of dioxin-like compounds from the Lower North Shore were low in fish and seals, but concentrations were elevated in the eggs of sea birds. Given that there was also a significant statistical correlation in the entire population between human plasma levels and consumption of birds' eggs-and not other traditional foods-much of the increased human dose appeared to originate from this one food source. Because there appear to be increased, but uncertain, health risks from this elevated body burden, investigators advised the residents of the area to avoid consumption of wild birds' eggs (i.e., a food source of minor nutritional importance).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Dioxins / blood*
  • Eggs / analysis
  • Female
  • Fisheries* / statistics & numerical data
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Fresh Water
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quebec
  • Rural Population
  • Seafood / analysis


  • Dioxins
  • Lipids