Chemical Contaminants in Traditional Foods from St. Lawrence Island

October 26, 2011 @ 10:00am (AKDT)

The circumpolar Arctic is exposed to pesticides and industrial chemicals that originate from thousands of miles away, traveling northward via oceanic and atmospheric currents. These chemicals accumulate in the north because the cold climate and fat-based food web favor retention of these persistent toxic chemicals.

The concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) increase at higher levels of the food web and humans are at the top of the Arctic marine food web. Therefore, Alaska Native peoples and others living in the circumpolar north bear a disproportionate burden of environmental contaminants. At the request of and in collaboration with the Yupik people of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska Community Action on Toxics conducted a study to determine contaminant levels in traditional subsistence foods. Analyses of more than 300 samples indicated high levels of PCBs in important foods including bowhead whale, walrus, and seal.

Join this call to learn more about:

  • Learn about the findings of the St. Lawrence Island traditional foods study recently published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health;
  • Find out what actions the communities are taking to protect their health;
  • Hear an update on chemicals being considered for a worldwide ban under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)



  • Community-Based Participatory Research
  • Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Arctic (ACAT report, May 2009)
  • Welfinger-Smith et al Traditional Foods Study

Featured speakers

David O. Carpenter, M.D. is director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at UAlbany’s School of Public Health. Dr. Carpenter previously served as director of the Wadsworth Laboratory of the New York State Department of Health.  Carpenter, who received his doctorate from Harvard Medical School, has 220 publications, 37 reviews and book chapters and 12 other publications to his credit. He has been working with the villages on St. Lawrence Island on community-based environmental health research projects for 10 years.

Pamela K. Miller founded Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) in 1997 and serves as Executive Director.

Viola Waghiyi is Environmental Health and Justice Program Director for Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

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