This study is designed to examine the effects of prenatal exposure to environmental contaminants on cognitive and behavioral development and physical growth in two groups of Inuit infants-one in Northern Quebec; the other in Greenland.
Due to prevailing weather patterns and ocean currents, certain environmental contaminants are transported to the Arctic region. The Inuit are among the most heavily exposed populations on earth due to the prevalence of these contaminants in traditional foods that comprise a large portion of their diet. The contaminants assessed in this study include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), methylmercury, selenium, organochlorine pesticides, and lead. These contaminants are measured in umbilical cord blood samples obtained at birth, milk samples obtained from breast-feeding mothers and, in the case of mercury, hair samples obtained from the mothers. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are also assessed in these samples to examine the degree to which these nutrients may protect against adverse effects attributable to these contaminants.