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Inuit Communities Show Alarming Levels Of ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Remote Areas

Danish researchers find Inuit populations in Greenland with dangerously high levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood.
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Inuit communities have the world’s highest levels of pollutive ‘forever chemicals’ in their bodies – despite living in such remote areas.

Danish researchers found that nearly all of the tiny population of an Inuit community in northeastern Greenland had dangerously high levels of Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – harmful manmade chemicals that do not biodegrade – in their blood.

PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals’, are global contaminants routinely found worldwide in wildlife, humans, and the environment.

Inuit communities have the world’s highest levels of pollutive ‘forever chemicals’ in their bodies – despite living in such remote areas. LARA JAMESON/PEXELS

The chemicals are used across almost all industries and are found in textiles, furniture, carpets, shoes, food packaging, cosmetics, firefighting foams, furniture, cookware, electronics and pesticides.

The scientists say the high levels in Inuit is due to their diet of marine animals high-up in the food chain such as whales, seals and polar bears – which have high concentrations of PFAS chemicals.

The majority of the Inuit population are at ‘serious risk’ of damage to their immune systems due to the levels of PFAS found in their blood, the study authors added.

However, the researchers, from Aarhus University in Denmark, also discovered high concentrations of harmful PFAS in the populations of the UK, US, Taiwan and several other Scandinavian and European countries.

The scientists used their findings to reiterate a warning to the United Nations issued earlier this year to immediately ban the pollutive contaminants or risk a public health crisis.

The team behind the new research, published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal, set out to measure PFAS levels in the blood of those living in remote Indigenous Arctic communities who consume high trophic marine diets.

The substances are transported to the Arctic via the atmosphere and ocean currents, and, when they are released into the environment, are bio-magnified through the food chain.

Predators at the top of the food chain such as ringed seals, toothed whales and polar bears therefore contain high PFAS concentrations.

The researchers suggest that the high levels in the indigenous population of East Greenland are likely ‘primarily originating from their food’.

The study team enrolled 22 participants – 12 male and 10 female – from the hunting community in Ittoqqotoormiit in northeastern Greenland and interviewed them about their diets.

Upon testing their blood, the researchers found that nearly all (92 percent) of the residents in the small community of around 350 had far more PFAS in their bodies than the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends to avoid damage to the immune system.

Further to this, 86 percent of the inhabitants displayed blood values that were higher than EFSA’s threshold value for serious risk of damage to the immune system.

Professor Christian Sonne, one of the authors of the study, warned that the results were indicative of the fact that, if action is not taken soon to ban PFAS, pollution could threaten public health across the globe.

“This Inuit cohort had the highest non-occupational long-term exposure to PFASs worldwide despite their remote location relative to industrial sources,” Prof Sonne explained.

“Using country-wide average values across global studies, we found that blood serum concentrations of PFASs in populations from European countries, North America, the Arctic, and Australia were generally higher than those in South America, Africa, and mainland Asia.

Inuit communities have the world’s highest levels of pollutive ‘forever chemicals’ in their bodies – despite living in such remote areas. LARA JAMESON/PEXELS

“The highest concentrations were found in people from USA, Canada, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the UK, Spain, Poland, and Australia.

“These high-exposure countries all fall within the EFSA moderate-risk and high-risk categories.”

Prof Sonne and the rest of the study’s authors reiterated a warning issued to the UN in February of this year to ban PFAS.

“If measures are not taken quickly,” he said, “Such as a ban on PFAS and the use of alternatives to PFAS, pollution of the environment will continue to threaten public health around the world.”


Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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