Traditional food better despite pollutants, researchers say
Northernersshould continue to eat traditional food despite the presence of contaminants, researchers told a northern contaminants workshop in Lake Louise, Alta., onThursday.
Although studies show a decrease in some pollutants such as PCBs and DDT, there is an increase in mercury levels, said Gary Stern, a researcher with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
But despite the contaminants, thebenefits of eatingwhale and seal are greater than the risks, he said.
"The vitamins and the nutrition and everything else that they get from that diet still outweighs any of the problems associated with mercury in the tissues or PCBs in the blubber," Stern said.
Studies show mercury concentrations in marine mammals and various birds in thewestern Arctic have risen dramatically since the 1990s,due mainly to climate change, he said.
Samples taken from the Porcupine caribou herd over the past 15 yearsshow a slight increase in mercury levels, particularly in the females, said Yukon researcher Mary Gamberg.
"But when you compare the mercury levels [in caribou] to something like beluga or ring seals, it's no worries at all because it's so low," she said.
Inuvik resident and hunter Richard Binder said more needs to be done to monitor country foods for mercury and other contaminants.
High levels of mercury have been linked to health problems such as birth defects and cancer.
Stern said more work will be done on mercury levels in the Arctic Ocean to find out where the mercury contamination is coming from.