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PFAS and PBDEs in traditional subsistence foods from Sivuqaq, Alaska

Abstract

The Arctic is a hemispheric sink for both legacy and current use persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Once in the Arctic, POPs biomagnify in food webs, potentially reaching concentrations in high trophic level animals that pose a health concern for people who subsist on those animals. Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic may be highly exposed to POPs through their traditional diets. The objective of this study was to assess concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in tissues of traditionally harvested foods from Sivuqaq (St. Lawrence Island), Alaska. Community health researchers identified volunteer households and local hunters to donate tissues from traditionally harvested animals. Target species included bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), ringed seal (Pusa hispida), bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus), ribbon seal (Histriophoca fasciata), spotted seal (Phoca largha), and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). PBDEs were frequently detected in all species and tissues. PBDE concentrations tended to be highest in lipid-rich tissues of seals. PFAS were infrequently detected and did not show obvious patterns among species or tissues. This and other studies demonstrate that POPs such as PBDEs are present in tissues of traditional food animals from Sivuqaq, as they are throughout the Arctic, and consumption of these animals likely contributes to exposure among Arctic Indigenous Peoples.

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Data availability

Data may be made available upon reasonable request and with permission of the Native Village of Gambell and the Native Village of Savoonga.

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Acknowledgements

The authors sincerely thank the Native Villages of Gambell and Savoonga and the members of the Sivuqaq Working Group, without whom this research would not be possible. We would also like to thank the hunters and households in Gambell and Savoonga who generously provided samples. We appreciate the assistance of Dinah Iknokinok during sample collection. We thank Dr. Alex Lyford of Middlebury College for his assistance with R. We thank Thoin Begum for her work on a literature review. We would also like to highlight the bravery and skill of pilot Kevin L. Ahl of Bering Air, who successfully navigated a storm over the Bering Sea to ensure the safety of Dr. Seguinot-Medina and the subsistence food samples.

Funding

This work was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) 1RO1ES019620, 2RO1ES019620, and 1R01ES032392.

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Contributions

Conceptualization, funding acquisition, and methodology: SSM, VW, PM, SB, FAvH, CLB, DOC. Data collection and sample analysis: SSM, TI, EA. Data analysis and manuscript preparation: SB, SSM, PM, FAvH, VW. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sam Byrne.

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This research includes samples of foods derived from animals that were traditionally harvested by the Indigenous Peoples of Sivuqaq, Alaska. No live animals were used in the course of this research.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Byrne, S., Seguinot-Medina, S., Waghiyi, V. et al. PFAS and PBDEs in traditional subsistence foods from Sivuqaq, Alaska. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-022-20757-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-022-20757-2

Keywords

  • Arctic
  • Indigenous
  • Marine mammal
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • POPs
  • St. Lawrence Island