Juan J. Aristizabal Henao


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Implementation of human biomonitoring in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories, Canada (2016–2017)
Mylène Ratelle, Kelly Skinner, Matthew Laird, Shannon E. Majowicz, Danielle Brandow, Sara Packull-McCormick, Michèle Bouchard, Denis Dieme, Ken D. Stark, Juan J. Aristizabal Henao, Rhona M. Hanning, Brian Laird
Archives of Public Health, Volume 76, Issue 1

Human biomonitoring represents an important tool for health risk assessment, supporting the characterization of contaminant exposure and nutrient status. In communities where country foods (locally harvested foods: land animals, fish, birds, plants) are integrated in the daily diet, as is the case in remote northern regions where food security is a challenge, such foods can potentially be a significant route of contaminant exposure. To assess this issue, a biomonitoring project was implemented among Dene/Métis communities of the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories, Canada.Participants completed dietary surveys (i.e., a food frequency questionnaire and 24-h recall) to estimate food consumption patterns as well as a Health Messages Survey to evaluate the awareness and perception of contaminants and consumption notices. Biological sampling of hair, urine and blood was conducted. Toxic metals (e.g., mercury, lead, cadmium), essential metals (e.g., copper, nickel, zinc), fatty acids, and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) were measured in samples.The levels of contaminants in blood, hair and urine for the majority of participants were below the available guidance values for mercury, cadmium, lead and uranium. However, from the 279 participants, approximately 2% were invited to provide follow up samples, mainly for elevated mercury level. Also, at the population level, blood lead (GM: 11 μg/L) and blood cadmium (GM: 0.53 μg/L) were slightly above the Canadian Health Measures Survey data. Therefore, although country foods occasionally contain elevated levels of particular contaminants, human exposures to these metals remained similar to those seen in the Canadian general population. In addition, dietary data showed the importance and diversity of country foods across participating communities, with the consumption of an average of 5.1% of total calories from wild-harvested country foods.This project completed in the Mackenzie Valley of the Northwest Territories fills a data gap across other biomonitoring studies in Canada as it integrates community results, will support stakeholders in the development of public health strategies, and will inform environmental health issue prioritization.

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Mercury and omega-3 fatty acid profiles in freshwater fish of the Dehcho Region, Northwest Territories: Informing risk benefit assessments
Matthew Laird, Juan J. Aristizabal Henao, Ellen S. Reyes, Ken D. Stark, George C. Low, Heidi K. Swanson, Brian Laird
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 637-638

Traditional foods have significant nutritional, sociocultural and economic value in subarctic First Nations communities of the Northwest Territories, and play a crucial role in promoting cultural continuity and sovereignty. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (N-3 PUFAs), including eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), carry significant benefits for neurocognitive development and cardiovascular health. However, the health risks posed by methylmercury may serve to undermine the benefits of fish consumption in Northern Indigenous communities. The objective of this study was to characterize profiles for mercury (Hg) and fatty acids in fish species harvested across lakes of the Dehcho Region, in the Mackenzie Valley of the Northwest Territories, to better understand the risks and benefits associated with traditional foods. Hg levels increased with trophic position, with the highest levels found in Burbot, Lake Trout, Walleye, and Northern Pike. Lake Trout, along with planktivorous species including Lake Whitefish, Cisco, and Sucker, demonstrated higher N-3 PUFAs than other species. Negative associations were observed between Hg and N-3 PUFAs in Lake Trout, Northern Pike, Walleye and Burbot. Further stratifying these relationships revealed significant interactions by lake. Significant differences observed in fatty acid and Hg profiles across lakes underscore the importance of considering both species- and lake-specific findings. This growing dataset of freshwater fish of the Dehcho will inform future efforts to characterize human Hg exposure profiles using probabilistic dose reconstruction models.