June 26, 2013
Ottawa (ON) – The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) today released a scientific report on the presence of environmental chemicals in the adult First Nation population. The report, First Nations Biomonitoring Initiative – National Results, provides a comprehensive set of data on the concentrations of environmental chemicals found in the First Nation population.
“This is the first nationally representative study of this type to focus specifically on First Nation people living on-reserve,” said AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. “This report is a valuable tool in addressing the gap in knowledge about the exposure and concentrations of environmental chemicals in the First Nation population. There is much more we need to learn about exposure to household and industrial chemicals and, as this is the first report, the data collected will serve as a benchmark for future studies to determine if changes in the environment are resulting in an increase or decrease in concentrations of chemicals of concern. This research will also contribute to the emerging science and research in this area being conducted throughout the world.”
The First Nations Biomonitoring Initiative – National Results is a national survey that collects information relevant to the health of First Nations people through questionnaires and direct physical measurements. The biomonitoring component examined the presence of 97 environmental chemicals that were selected based on considerations such as suspected health risks, level of public concern and comparability with other studies. These environmental chemicals were selected from a candidate list of over 200 individual chemicals and groups.
Biomonitoring has become an essential tool in efforts to identify and control peoples’ exposure to environmental chemicals. Human biomonitoring is the measurement in people of a chemical, the products it makes after it has broken down or the products that might result from interactions in the body. Data can be used by scientists to assess if there are potential health risks from household and industrial chemicals present in an individual’s environment.
“The findings reveal that First Nations people, as with other Canadians, have traces of environmental chemicals in their body. However, the AFN wishes to emphasize that a majority of chemicals have no known or anticipated exceedance guideline to indicate where an adverse health effect might occur. The study concluded that the levels generally found in the First Nation population are currently not identified or believed to pose any immediate health risk,” stated Dr. Diego Garcia, AFN’s Public Health Advisor.
The First Nation Biomonitoring Initiative – National Results reveals no significant differences between the levels of trace metals and other environmental chemicals between First Nations and the Canadian population, though there are a few exceptions. Cotinine levels are significantly higher in First Nation participants, likely a result of a higher percentage of smokers. This is also the likely reason for significantly higher levels of cadmium in First Nations populations. A number of chemicals were found to be lower in the First Nation population, such as several insecticides and pesticides. Other regional or ecozone anomalies were identified for a number of environmental chemicals when compared to the overall national exposure levels in the First Nation population.
The data currently being released was collected in 2011 and includes a nationally representative sample of 503 First Nations adults aged 20 years and over. The First Nation Biomonitoring Initiative – National Results provides a useful baseline for subsequent longitudinal studies as well as for the study of specific hotspots or areas of concern.
A copy of the First Nations Biomonitoring Initiative – National Results is available at: www.afn.ca.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext. 382; 613-292-0857 or [email protected]
Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext. 401; 613-314-8157 or [email protected]
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