Synopsis of research conducted under the 2013-2014 Northern Contaminants Program

Full Report (PDF)


This report provides a summary of the progress to date of research and monitoring studies pertaining to contaminants from long-range sources in northern Canada, and related communications, outreach, capacity-building and policy activities that were conducted in 2013-2014 under the auspices of the Northern Contaminants Program (NCP).

The NCP mandate is to work to reduce and, wherever possible, eliminate contaminants in traditionally harvested foods, while providing information that assists informed decision making by individuals and communities in their food use. The projects reported herein cover the broad range of topics that contribute to understanding and addressing northern contaminants issues, as outlined in the NCP strategic plans (e.g., Blueprints), including dietary contaminant exposure, effects of contaminants on the health of people and ecosystems, contaminant levels and trends in the Arctic environment and wildlife and the influence of climate change, and community-based monitoring and research.

These projects were subject to a comprehensive technical, peer and northern social/cultural review process, involving external peer reviewers, technical review teams, regional contaminants committees and the NCP Management Committee. This review process ensures that each project supports the priorities and objectives of the Northern Contaminants Program, as outlined in the NCP blueprints and the annual call for proposals. All peer reviewers, review teams and regional contaminants committees use evaluation criteria to review and rate proposals. Consultation with northern community authorities and/or Indigenous organizations is required for all projects involving field work in the North and/or analyses of samples, as a condition of approval for funding.

Preliminary results of projects funded in the 2013-2014 year are presented here. Submission of a report for this publication ensures program transparency, allows for timely sharing of results, and is a mandatory deliverable for all recipients of NCP project funding. These reports and any future peer- reviewed publications related to these studies will be available through the NCP Publications Database housed at the Arctic Science and Technology Information System (ASTIS) hosted by the Arctic Institute of North America (AINA) at Other project deliverables include submission of data/ data sets/ metadata to the Polar Data Catalogue at


The Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) engages Northerners and scientists in researching and monitoring of long-range contaminants in the Canadian Arctic, that is, contaminants that are transported to the Arctic through atmospheric and oceanic processes from other parts of the world and which remain in the Arctic environment and build up in the food chain. The data generated by the NCP is used to assess ecosystem and human health, and the findings of these assessments are used to address the safety and security of traditional country foods that are important to the health and traditional lifestyles of Northerners and northern communities. The findings also inform policy, resulting in action to eliminate contaminants from long-range sources.

The NCP contributes scientific data and expertise to contaminants-related international initiatives such as the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), and to international agreements such as the UNEP Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and two protocols under the United Nation Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, working globally to improve the health of Arctic people and wildlife over the long term.

The NCP is directed by a management committee that is chaired by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), and consists of representatives from four federal departments (Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, Health and CIRNAC), five territorial, provincial and regional governments (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut), four northern Aboriginal organizations (Council of Yukon First Nations, Dene Nation, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Inuit Circumpolar Council), five regional contaminants committees, and Canada’s only Arctic-focused Network of Centres of Excellence (ArcticNet).

The management committee is responsible for establishing NCP policy and science priorities and for making final decisions on the allocation of funds. Regional contaminants committees established in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut support this national committee. Funding for the NCP’s $4.1 million annual budget comes from CIRNAC and Health Canada.

Details about the management structures and review processes used to effectively implement the NCP, and the protocol to be used to publicly disseminate health and harvest information generated by the NCP can be found in the NCP Operational Management Guide (available upon request from the NCP Secretariat).

Highlights of 2013-2014

This report provides a summary of the progress to date of research and activities funded by the Northern Contaminants Program in 2013-2014. It is a compilation of reports submitted by project teams, emphasizing the results of research and related activities that took place during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The report is divided into chapters that reflect the broad scope of the NCP: Human Health; Environmental Monitoring and Research; Community Based Monitoring and Knowledge Integration; and Communication, Capacity, and Outreach.

Some of the program’s highlights for 2013-2014 included:

  • the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in October 2013, for which NCP data, information and expertise played a critical role for Canada and the Arctic Council to take a leadership role towards taking actions to control global sources of atmospheric mercury emissions;
  • the release of the Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report III (CACAR III) report on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Canada’s North, the first assessment report to focus exclusively on persistent organic pollutants in the Canadian Arctic;
  • the 20th anniversary NCP Results Workshop, held in Ottawa in September 2013, which attracted some 200 participants to mark this special anniversary for Canada’s longest standing northern monitoring and research program; and
  • significant contributions by NCP scientists and the NCP Secretariat to the circumpolar Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) Working Group, as co-authors and co-chairs of scientific expert groups working on updates to circumpolar assessment reports, and as Canada’s Head of Delegation and Vice-Chair to AMAP, during Canada’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2013-2015).

2013-2014 Funded Projects
Project Title Principle Project Leader
Human Health
Assessment of contaminant and dietary nutrient interactions in the Inuit Health Survey: Nunavut, Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit - Part 1: Risk Perception and Message Evaluation Study C. Furgal
Assessment of contaminant and dietary nutrient interactions in the Inuit Health Survey: Nunavut, Nunatsiavut and Inuvialuit Part 2: Development of an Integral Data Platform L. Chan
Nunavik Child Cohort Study (NCCS): follow-up with late adolescents G. Muckle
Association between environmental contaminants, stress and observed behaviour in teenaged children from the Nunavik Child Cohort Study (NCCS), and in adults from the Inuit Health Survey P. Plusquelles
Contaminant Nutrient Interaction Issues as part of a Public Health Intervention Study of Inuit Children in Nunavik: Communication of Results H. Turgeon-O’Brien
Monitoring of environmental pollutants in maternal blood in Nunavik: time trend assessment and evaluation of the Arctic Char program E. Dewailly
Country foods and cardiovascular health in Nunavik: studying the complex balance between selenium and environmental contaminants (year 2) P. Ayotte
Quantifying the effect of transient and permanent dietary transitions in the North on human exposure to persistent organic pollutants and mercury F. Wania
Community Based Monitoring
Mercury Levels in Food Fish Species in Lakes Used by Dehcho Community Members with a Focus on Choice and Risk Perception of Eating Traditional Country Food G. Low
Paulatuk Beluga Whales: Health and Knowledge D. Ruben
Tłı̨chǫ Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Project (TAEMP) J. McCullum
Enhancing Community-Based Monitoring of Ecosystem Changes in the ISR Through the Inclusion of Local and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Indicators V. Gillman
Harvest Monitoring of Metal Bioaccumulation at Kuujjuaraapik (Nunavik): Have Levels Changed 20 Years After the Great Whale Environmental Assessment? R. Mickpegak
Impacts of Global Change and Industry on Methyl Mercury Exposures and Inuit Health T. Sheldon
Environmental Monitoring and Research
Northern Contaminants Air Monitoring: Organic Pollutant Measurement H. Hung
Mercury Measurements at Alert and Little Fox Lake A. Steffen
Passive Air Sampling Network for Organic Pollutants and Mercury H. Hung
Temporal Trends of Persistent Organic Pollutants and Metals in Ringed Seals from the Canadian Arctic D. Muir
Temporal and Spatial Trends of Legacy and Emerging Organic and Metal/Elemental Contaminants in Canadian Polar Bears R. Letcher
Time-Trend Studies on New and Emerging Persistent Halogenated Compounds in Beluga Whales from Hendrickson Island (NWT) and Sanikiluaq (Nunavut) G. Tomy
Temporal Trends of Halogenated Organic Compounds in Canadian Arctic Beluga G. Stern
Up-Date on Mercury Levels in Hendrickson Island and Sanikiluaq Beluga G. Stern
Temporal Trends of Contaminants in Arctic Seabird Eggs B. Braune
Temporal Trends and Spatial Variations in Persistent Organic Pollutants and Metals in Sea-Run Char from the Canadian Arctic M. Evans
Temporal Trends of Persistent Organic Pollutants and Mercury in Landlocked Char in High Arctic Lakes D. Muir
Spatial and Long-Term Trends in Persistent Organic Contaminants and Metals in Lake Trout and Burbot from the Northwest Territories M. Evans
Temporal Trend Studies Of Trace Metals And Halogenated Organic Contaminants (Hocs), Including New And Emerging Persistent Compounds, In Mackenzie River Burbot, Fort Good Hope, NWT G. Stern
Trace Metals and Organohalogen Contaminants in Fish from Selected Yukon Lakes: A Temporal and Spatial Study G. Stern
Arctic Caribou Contaminant Monitoring Program M. Gamberg
A latitudinal investigation of ecosystem sensitivity to methylmercury bioaccumulation in Arctic fresh waters J. Chételat
Host-Parasite-Mercury Interactions in a Marine Bird G. Gilchrist
Evaluating the Accumulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants in Arctic Cod in the Beaufort Sea Using Samples from The BREA Program B. Hickie
Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds, Flame Retardants and Other Persistent L. Jantunen
Influence of Climate Warming on Mercury Dynamics in High Arctic Lakes P. Drevnick
Quantifying Contaminant Loadings, Water Quality and Climate Change Impacts in the World´s Largest Lake North of 74° Latitude (Lake Hazen, Quttinirpaaq National Park, Northern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut) V. St. Louis
Profiling the distribution of total and methylated mercury in the Canadian Arctic Seawater F. Wang
Communications, Capacity, and Outreach
Yukon Contaminants Committee and AANDC Regional Office Coordination 2013-2014 P. Roach
Nunavut Environmental Contaminants Committee A. Dunn
Nunavik Nutrition and Health Committee: Coordinating and Learning from Contaminants Research in Nunavik E. Labranche
Facilitating a transition - continuing to arm Nunatsiavummiut with information related to contaminants and health while increasing ownership of research development and implementation in the region C. Webb
Coordination, Participation and Communication: Evolving Inuit Research Advisor Responsibilities in Nunatsiavut for the Benefit of Inuit and Their Communities C. Pamak
The Current State of Long Range Contaminants in the Western Arctic S. O’Hara
Nunavik Inuit Research Advisor M. Barrett
The Research Advisor: Increasing Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated’s Social and Cultural Research Coordination N. Obed
Building Continued Capacity Among Inuit Research Advisors K. Tagoona
National/Regional Coordination and Indigenous Partnerships
National Coordination and Administration of the Northern Contaminants Program, and Facilitation of International Action related to the Long-range Transport of Contaminants into the Arctic R. Shearer
Council of Yukon First Nations– Northern Contaminants Program Meetings V. Dijken
Dene Nation Participation in Management Committee and Northwest Territories Environmental Contaminants Committee C. Chocolate
Inuit Circumpolar Council – Canada Activities in Support of Circumpolar and Global Contaminant Instruments and Activities E. Kruemmel
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami National Coordination E. Loring