Organochlorines and heavy metals in pregnant women from the Disko Bay area in Greenland

P Bjerregaard, J C Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Recent studies from Greenland and the Canadian Arctic have shown high concentrations of heavy metals, such as mercury, and organochlorines in the blood and fatty tissue of the Inuit. This is attributed in particular to their high consumption of the meat and blubber of marine mammals. In the present study, 180 pregnant women and 178 newborn babies were studied, amounting to 36% of the total number of births in the Disko Bay area during 1994-1996. The pesticides found in the highest concentrations in maternal blood were DDE (4.8 micrograms/l wet wt.), trans-nonachlor (1.6 micrograms/l) and hexachlorobenzene (1.2 micrograms/l) while the total concentration of PCB (Aroclor 1260) was 19.1 micrograms/l. Calculated on a lipid basis, concentrations were slightly higher in maternal than in cord blood. The mercury concentrations were 16.8 micrograms/l in maternal blood and 35.6 micrograms/l in cord blood. In a linear regression analysis, the concentrations of organochlorines, mercury and selenium increased with maternal age. Concentrations of mercury and cadmium increased with the consumption of marine mammals, and cadmium was associated with smoking. The contaminants are potentially toxic for several organ systems but the high concentrations of pollutants have so far not been shown to influence health in Greenland.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Pages (from-to)195-202
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 17. Jan 2000


  • Adult
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood
  • Greenland
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides
  • Inuits
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Public Health
  • Seafood
  • Smoking
  • Tissue Distribution

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