Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Lead Sources in Human Diet in Greenland

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Lead Sources in Human Diet in Greenland

Article excerpt

Although blood lead levels have declined in Greenland, they are still elevated despite the fact that lead levels in the Greenland environment are very low, Fragments of lead shot in game birds have been suggested as an important source of dietary exposure, and meals of sea birds, particularly eider, contain high concentrations of lead. In a cross-sectional population survey in Greenland in 1993-1994, blood lead adjusted for age and sex was found to be associated with the reported consumption of sea birds. Participants reporting less than weekly intake of sea birds had blood lead concentrations of approximately 75 [micro]g/L, whereas those who reported eating sea birds several times a week had concentrations of approximately 110 [micro]g/L, and those who reported daily intake had concentrations of 170 [micro]g/L (p = 0.01). Blood lead was not associated with dietary exposure to other local of imported food items. Key words: diet, Greenland, Inuit, lead, lead shot, sea birds. Environ Health Perspect 112:1496-1498 (2004). doi:10.1289/ehp.7083 available via http://dx.doi.org/[Online 21 July 2004]

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Lead has been recognized as a poison for millennia and has recently been the focus of public health regulations in most of the developed world. Consequently, fatalities and symptomatic lead poisoning have declined dramatically during the latest decades and are continuing to decline (Kaufmann et al. 2003), In recognition of the particular sensitivity of the developing brain to lead effects, much of dais legislation has addressed the prevention of childhood lead poisoning. Of particular importance is the accumulation of data suggesting that there are toxicologic effects in children at low levels of exposure (Winneke et al. 1996). Lanphear et al. (2000) found that deficits in cognitive and academic skills in children 6-16 years of age were associated with lead exposure at blood lead concentrations < 50 [micro]g/L. In addition, evidence shows that certain genetic and environmental factors can increase the detrimental effects of lead on neural development (Lidsky and Schneider 2003; Long et al. 2002). Long-term deficits in cognitive function are the principal effects of lead exposure in children and can be modeled in experimental animals (Guilarte et al. 2003). During the past two decades, the proportion of U.S. children who have blood lead concentrations [greater than or equal to] 100 [micro]g/L declined by > 80% after the elimination of leaded gasoline and lead solder from canned foods and a ban on leaded paint used in housing (Lanphear et al. 2003). Furthermore, lead is associated with elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular mortality. The association is weak, but there is a small dose response through the range of blood concentrations [greater than or equal to] 350 [micro]g/L (Hertz-Picciotto and Croft 1993).

Blood lead levels in samples collected before 1980 from the indigenous (Inuit) adult population of Greenland were found to be similar to those of populations in western European cities, where leaded gasoline was the main source (Hansen 1981; Hansen et al. 1983). Because local sources of lead in Greenland were considered unlikely to be significant, the cause of the unexpected high levels was proposed to be long-distance atmosphere transport of lead particles in combination with an increased intestinal absorption due to a diet low in calcium and rich in iron and protein (Hansen 1988; Milman et al. 1994). This assumption was supported by the finding that lead was being transported and deposited in the Greenland ice cap from remote sources (Boutran et al. 1995). Further support for the assumption is that in samples collected after 1980, blood lead concentrations have gradually declined in parallel with the reduced use of leaded gasoline on a global scale (Hansen et al. 1991). However, blood lead levels in Greenland appear still to be elevated compared with those in other Arctic regions and Scandinavia. …

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