Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Guest Speaker: Northern Living: Health and Environmental Implications of Atmospheric Pollutions. Braeden Taylor& Dylan Harris

In this class we had two U of M students come and speak to us about how pollution in the atmosphere is affecting Northern Living. It was all presented in a PowerPoint that covered various issues and I shall cover them by category.

To start this post off I shall start by covering some aspects of northern culture.

First off is Traditional/Country Food. The main idea behind traditional foods in northern culture is that it keeps people connected with nature as well as promoting sharing in the community. Food also brings respect and pride from successful harvest and there is a large large variety of foods, depends on season and location. Some examples include caribou, beluga, narwhal, beluga, seal, etc.

Tradition also spreads to knowledge and it has a deep impact on the northern peoples culture as well. Sharing of traditional knowledge is sacred and is held by elders and has to be earned. The ability to speak about certain issues has to be earned and is based off of centuries of experience and observation. This makes it difficult for scientists to get an accurate history of northern Canada as they do not remain there long enough to earn the right or chance to acquire some of this knowledge that could help in their studies and predicitons of how the northern and Arctic areas may be affected by pollution.

Now we come to two vocabulary additions. Food Security defined as: “Refers to confidence that food is available, accessible, safe and nutritious.” (Arctic Pollution Report, 2009). We also have the Northern Contaminants Program Established by Canadian government in 1991 and is part of Canada’s Green plan and Arctic Environmental Strategy.

Now we come to examples of various contaminants which pose a threat to northern peoples, their land, and the ecosystem:
- Polonium: naturally occurring
- Cesium: man made and absorbed by lichen, effects caribou but has been decreasing since ban on nuclear testing in 1960’s.

Radionuclide's are an example of radioactivity in northern communities. Historically, higher levels were found in people who ate more caribou but levels have slowly been declining since 1960’s. We could see greater effect in the future due to climate change however.

Metals also play a part in how pollution is threatening northern communities. Below is a list of some properties of metals as well as how they get into the environment and their affects:

- Naturally occurring
- Mining, smelting
- Cadmium, Mercury, Lead
- Mercury: higher levels in people who eat more fish and marine mammals
- Cadmium: little exposure from traditional food
- Organ chlorides
o Contaminants of greatest concern in the north
o Persistent Organic Pollutants PCB
o Bioaccumulation and Biomagnifications
o Dissolve in fats and oils

The next two vocabulary additions will define the two main issues involved with the scenarios of chemicals and metals entering an environment. Bioaccumulation it the build-up of contaminants in an animal that cannot be digested or eliminated, highest levels found in older animals who have consumed more food over their life span than younger animals. Biomagnification occurs when an animal eats a contaminated plant or animal They consume contaminants stored in that food. That is then passed on to whatever animal eats that animal. Thus toxins are passed on and travel higher and higher up the food chain until they eventually reach us, humans.

At Risk Populations to the affects of bioaccumulation and biomagnification include:
- Unborn children and developing children
- People with high fat diets as toxins are stored by the body in fat for the most part.

There are nurmerous issues involved whne trying to deal with the contamination of food in any community. The method of risk communication must not generate fear in people and turn them away from their traditional food and lifestyle. When finding ways to live with possbly contaminate food there must be a balance of contaminant exposure compared to lifestyle dietary change. A way of life should not end simply because some foods may be a health risk yet that risk should not be ignored.

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