Until the 1990s the greatest threat from chemicals was thought to be cancer. The investigation1 into why fish and wildlife were dying out in the region around the Great Lakes of Michigan, USA, by Theo Colburni was the first to suggest that the cause was agricultural chemicals. But the chemicals did not cause cancer – the low levels of chemicals disturbed the early sexual development of the fish, affecting the ability to reproduce.
Persistent compounds have also accumulated in Greenland affecting fish and wildlife. Data shows that Greenlanders who eat these native foods have chemical body burdens exceeding safety levels. The Arctic Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations have called for an increased effort to reduce emissions of environmental pollutants, so as not to disrupt the indigenous peoples’ traditional way of life.
“Traditional food is what binds the Inuit culture together. The hunt and the sharing of the food is very important. When this is compromised, not only do they lose confidence in their food – they lose part of their culture and in fact spirituality”.
Colburn T; von Saal FS; Soto AM. 1993. “Developmental Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans.” Environmental Health Perspectives. 101(5):378-384.