Last Updated October 8, 2017

Northern Contaminants Program

Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report II (2003)

Volume 1: Highlights

Full Document


A Statement Prepared by the Aboriginal Partners of the Northern Contaminants Program     i

Foreword     ii

Acknowledgements     iii

Executive Summary     iv


1 Introduction      1

1.1 What is the Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report — Phase II (CACAR-II)? 1

1.2 What is the CACAR-II Highlights Report? 1

1.3 How is this different from the first CACAR Highlights Report? 1

1.4 Structure of this report 2

1.5 The Canadian North 3

1.5.1 Peoples 3

1.5.2 Landscape and wildlife 4

1.6 The value and benefits of traditional/country food 5

1.7 The Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) 7


2 Contaminants — Sources, Transport Routes, and Levels in the North     11

2.1 Contaminants and their sources 11

2.1.1 Are contaminants natural or made by humans? 11

2.1.2 Most contaminants come from outside the North 11

2.1.3 Local sources of contaminants 13

2.1.4 Contaminants travel long distances and are found everywhere around the world 15

2.1.5 Can we expect contaminant levels in the Canadian North to decrease or increase in the future? 16

2.2 Why look at contaminants in the physical environment? 17

2.3 Contaminants in the northern physical environment — the air, lakes and rivers, soil, snow, sediments and marine waters 18

2.3.1 Contaminants in the atmosphere 18

2.3.1.1 Mercury and other heavy metals 19

2.3.1.2 Persistent organic pollutants 21

2.3.1.3 New persistent organic pollutants 22

2.3.2 Contaminants in lake sediments 23

2.3.3 Contaminants in marine waters and sediments 24

2.3.3.1 Persistent organic pollutants in marine waters and sediments 24

2.3.3.2 Radionuclides in marine waters and sediments 26

2.4 How do contaminants end up on the land, and in the lakes and rivers? Do they ever disappear? 27

2.5 Climate change may affect contaminants in northern Canada 29

2.5.1 The Arctic Oscillation and climate change 30

2.5.2 Mercury and other heavy metals 31

2.5.3 Persistent organic pollutants 31

2.5.4 Radionuclides 31

2.6 Knowledge gaps and future work 32


3 How Do Contaminants Get into Fish and Wildlife? What Happens to Wildlife that Contain Contaminants?     35

3.1 Introduction 35

3.2 Marine animals 37

3.2.1 Marine mammals 37

3.2.1.1 Ringed seals 38

3.2.1.2 Beluga whales 44

3.2.1.3 Narwhal 45

3.2.1.4 Walrus 46

3.2.1.5 Polar bears 48

3.2.1.6 Arctic foxes 50

3.2.2 Invertebrates and marine fish 50

3.2.2.1 Invertebrates 51

3.2.2.2 Marine fish 51

3.2.3 Seabirds 52

3.3 Land animals and plants 55

3.3.1 Land mammals 55

3.3.1.1 Caribou 56

3.3.1.2 Moose 57

3.3.1.3 Other large land

mammals 57

3.3.1.4 Wolves and wolverines 58

3.3.1.5 Beaver and muskrat 58

3.3.2 Freshwater fish 59

3.3.2.1 Loche (burbot) 59

3.3.2.2 Land-locked Arctic char 62

3.3.2.3 Lake trout, pickerel (walleye), inconnu, whitefish, cisco and jackfish (northern pike) 63

3.3.3 Waterfowl and game birds 65

3.3.4 Northern plants 67

3.4 Knowledge gaps and future work 67


4 Contaminants and Human Health     71

4.1 Introduction 71

4.2 Are contaminants the biggest health concern? What about other health issues in the North? 72

4.3 Benefits of traditional/country foods and dietary patterns across northern Canada 74

4.3.1 Nutritional value of traditional/country foods 77

4.3.2 Social, cultural and spiritual benefits 79

4.3.3 Economic necessity 79

4.3.4 Market foods 79

4.4 Contaminants in traditional/country foods and in people 81

4.4.1 Intake patterns, and levels of contaminants in mothers 83

4.4.2 Mercury and health 87

4.4.3 Persistent organic pollutants and health 88

4.4.4 Radionuclides in traditional/

country foods and health 89

4.5 How do we talk about and deal with the benefits and risks of traditional/country food? 90

4.6 Knowledge gaps and future work 93


5 Education, Training, Capacity Building and Communication     97

5.1 Curriculum development for

northern schools 97

5.2 Regional Contaminants Coordinators 98

5.3 Frontline training courses 98

5.4 Community tours 100

5.5 Elder-scientist retreats 101


6 Action at the National and International Levels     103

6.1 National initiatives 103

6.2 International agreements 104


Appendix A A partial listing of traditional/country foods consumed by northern aboriginal peoples     107

Appendix B Contact List     112

Appendix C Glossary     114