Human biomonitoring in the Arctic. Special challenges in a sparsely populated area
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Human biomonitoring in the Arctic creates certain challenges. Important exposure and health issues are: the various mixtures of contaminants found in the Arctic; long-range transport sources; accumulation in the traditional food chain; unique small populations; toxicant-nutrient interactions; genetic susceptibility factors; and multiple non-dietary confounding factors (especially lifestyle issues of the indigenous population groups). Through the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), systematic biomonitoring studies have been implemented since the mid-1990 s. Some concentrations of organic contaminants and toxic metals in human body fluids and tissues have raised concern, leading to the establishment of several mother-and-child cohorts. The aim of these efforts is to clarify possible health effects of the contaminants, especially in relation to pregnancy outcome and child development. The studies are ongoing and will lead to improved knowledge and public health advisories to reduce the risk of adverse health effects for the coming generations. Some of the indigenous population groups of Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Russia, as well as occupationally exposed populations in the Russian Arctic have had special attention during the last 15 years. The biomonitoring programs have resulted in public health interventions and dietary advice for vulnerable groups, like children and pregnant women. The sparsely populated areas where the studies are implemented create special ethical challenges to avoid research fatigue in the small population groups under surveillance. The research teams have a special responsibility to create communication strategies in close cooperation with the local authorities and build all research into a cultural context.
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