Contaminants in Greenland Human Diet

Updated 2000-06-19

Humans in Greenland are exposed to higher intakes of some contaminants from the diet than in most of Europe and North America. The objective of the study is to screen the most important local diet items in West Greenland for cadmium, mercury, selenium and organochlorine contaminants. Mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates, mainly marine species are being analysed.

This is a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Project time span
1999 - 2002
Data collection
1999 - 2001
Data processing
2000 - 2002
Data reporting
2000 - 2002

Contact information

Contact person
Poul Johansen
National Environmental Research Institute Department of Arctic Environment Frederiksborgvej 399 DK-4000 Roskilde Denmark
+45 46 30 19 36
+45 46 30 19 14
Other project contacts
Rune Dietz and Gert Asmund, NERI, Denmark Derek Muir, Environment Canada

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Heavy metals
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Freshwater fish
Higher plants
Marine benthos
Marine fish
Marine mammals
Terrestrial birds
Terrestrial mammals


Regions studied
Marine TDC

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
Data centres
Marine TDC
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
Johansen, P., Muir, D.C.G., Asmund, G. & Riget, F.F. 2004: Human exposure to contaminants in the traditional Greenland diet. - Science of The Total Environment 331(1-3): 189-206. Johansen, P., Muir, D., Asmund, G. & Riget, F.F. 2004: Contaminants in the traditional Greenland diet. National Environmental Research Institute. - NERI Technical Report 492: 74 pp. (electronic). Available at: ... orter/FR492.PDF
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?
Specimen banking information

Most samples, in particular marine mammals, are banked in NERIs freezer in Roskilde. No time limit for banking.

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Samples are collected/bought in Greenland by NERI personnel or contractors. Whole animals or tissue samples of these are send deep frozen to NERIs lab. in Roskilde, Denmark. Here samples are prepared for analyses. Cadmium, mercury and selenium analyses are conducted by NERI based on nitric acid digestion followed by element determination using atomic absorption. Organochlorine contaminants are determined by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Samples are homogenized, mixed with anhydrous Na2SO4 and Soxhlet extracted with dichloromethane. Lipid is removed using chromatography. Sample extracts are then exchanged into hexane and fractionated on silica columns. Quantitative analysis is carried out by presure programmed GC with Electon Capture detection.

QA/QC Information (what QA/QC procedures are implemented, laboratories involvment in QA/QC activities, model verification/validation routines, etc.)

Both laboratories take part in Quasimeme and follow well established laboratory procedures.

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
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