Effects of prenatal exposure to OCs and mercury on the immune system of Inuit infants (year 3)

Updated 2000-07-17

This study investigates possible detrimental effects on the immune system of Inuit infants which may be induced by prenatal and postnatal (breast feeding) exposure to persistent environmental contaminants such as organochlorine compounds. These substances accumulate in the body of Inuit women in part due to their consumption of sea mammal fat and can be transferred to the foetus during pregnacy and to the infant during breast feeding. Immune system function will be evaluated using several parameters: 1) the level of antibody produced by the infant following Haemophilus influenza immunization; 2) the level of proteins which protect the infant against bacterial infections (complement system) before its immune system is fully developed; and 3) the level of chemical messengers (cytokines) which enable the various cells of the immune system to communicate with each other, thereby maintaining its proper function and assuring the protection of the infant against bacteria, parasitic and viral infections.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Project time span
1998 - 2002
Data collection
1998 - 2001
Data processing
not specified
Data reporting
not specified

Contact information

Contact person
Eric Dewailly
Public Health Research Unit Laval University Medical Research Centre 2400 d’Estimauville Beauport, Quebec, G1E 7G9 Canada
+1 418 666-7000, ext. 222
+1 418 666-2776
Other project contacts
Pierre Ayotte1, Ph.D., Gaston de Serres1, M.D., Ph.D., Jean Philippe Weber2, Marthe Belles-Iles2, Ph.D., Ph.D., Claire Infante-Rivard3, M.D., Ph.D., Joseph Jacobson4, Ph.D., Raymond Lambert5, Ph.D.,Gina Muckle1, Ph.D., Raynald Roy5, Ph.D. 1. Public Health Research Unit, Laval University Medical Research Centre -CHUQ and Laval University; 2. Québec Toxicology Center – CHUQ; 3. McGill University; 4. Wayne State University; 5. Laval University Medical Research Centre -CHUQ and Laval University

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Heavy metals
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Human media
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

maternal and cord blood samples


Regions studied
Human Health TDC
Human Health TDC
Other areas
Nunavik (Quebec)

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
Data centres
Human Health TDC
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
No results available yet
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

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.

All immunological parameters are measured during the first 12 month of life. We evaluate also anti-Hib response. Given the crucial importance of the C' system in early infancy, we investigate C' abnormalities: the initial test will be the measurement of serum total hemolytic C' expressed in 50% hemolytic units (CH50). A normal CH50 generally indicates integrity of the C' system. In the event that low CH50 titers are observed, levels of C3 and C4 components are also carried out to determine from which of the alternative or the classical pathway originates the defect in the C' system. Th1 cytokines (IL-2, IFN and TNF) and Th2 cytokines (IL-4, IL-6 and IL-10) are measured in plasma collected at delivery in fetal blood as well as in infant blood at 6 month of age. Laboratory analyses Laboratory analyses for OCs and mercury as well as for vitamin A, will be performed at Quebec Toxicology Center which is located at CHUQ. This facility is the reference laboratory for human toxicology in the Province of Quebec. Their expertise in the determination of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants in human fluids and tissues is recognized internationally. QA/QC program on heavy metals and OCs have been described previously. This laboratory participates in the QC program of NCP. Immunological parameters will be analyzed at the laboratory of histocompatibility and Immunology at CHUQ. This facility offers clinical and laboratory services required for investigations of autoimmune, immunodeficiency and allergic diseases.

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

QA/QC program of NCP

Additional Information

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

Québec Toxicology Center – CHUQ; McGill University; Wayne State University

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