Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of envhperEnvironmental Health PerspectivesBrowse ArticlesAbout EHPGeneral InformationAuthorsMediaProgramsPartnerships
Environ Health Perspect. 1999 October; 107(10): 823–828.
PMCID: PMC1566611
Research Article

Concentration of organochlorines in human brain, liver, and adipose tissue autopsy samples from Greenland.


Organochlorines are persistent lipophilic compounds that accumulate in Inuit people living in circumpolar countries. Organochlorines accumulate as a result of the Inuits' large consumption of sea mammal fat; however, available data are limited to blood lipids, milk fat, and adipose tissue. We report results of organochlorine determination in liver, brain, omental fat, and subcutaneous abdominal fat samples collected from deceased Greenlanders between 1992 and 1994. Eleven chlorinated pesticides and 14 polychlorinated biphenyl congeners were measured in tissue lipid extracts by high-resolution gas chromatography with electron capture detection. Mean concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, 2, 2'-bis(4-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dichloroethylene, ss-hexachlorocyclohexane, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, trans-nonachlor, and oxychlordane in adipose tissue samples from Greenlanders were 3-34-fold higher than those measured using the same analytical method in samples from Canadians in Quebec City, Quebec. Brain lipids contained lower concentrations of all organochlorines than lipids extracted from other tissues. Organochlorine residue levels in lipid extracts from liver, omental fat, and subcutaneous abdominal fat samples were similar, with the exception of ss-hexachlorocyclohexane, which reached a greater concentration in liver lipids than in lipids from both adipose tissues (4-fold; p < 0. 05). Comparisons with available international data on adipose tissue levels reveal that the organochlorine body burden in the Inuit population of Greenland is presently among the highest resulting from environmental exposure.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (2.7M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Images in this article

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Asplund L, Svensson BG, Nilsson A, Eriksson U, Jansson B, Jensen S, Wideqvist U, Skerfving S. Polychlorinated biphenyls, 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane (p,p'-DDT) and 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-ethylene (p,p'-DDE) in human plasma related to fish consumption. Arch Environ Health. 1994 Nov-Dec;49(6):477–486. [PubMed]
  • Ayotte P, Dewailly E, Ryan JJ, Bruneau S, Lebel G. PCBs and dioxin-like compounds in plasma of adult Inuit living in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec). Chemosphere. 1997 Mar-Apr;34(5-7):1459–1468. [PubMed]
  • Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Bruneau S, Laliberté C, Muir DC, Norstrom RJ. Inuit exposure to organochlorines through the aquatic food chain in arctic québec. Environ Health Perspect. 1993 Dec;101(7):618–620. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Dewailly E, Ryan JJ, Laliberté C, Bruneau S, Weber JP, Gingras S, Carrier G. Exposure of remote maritime populations to coplanar PCBs. Environ Health Perspect. 1994 Jan;102 (Suppl 1):205–209. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Blanchet C, Grondin J, Bruneau S, Holub B, Carrier G. Weighing contaminant risks and nutrient benefits of country food in Nunavik. Arctic Med Res. 1996;55 (Suppl 1):13–19. [PubMed]
  • Jensen GE, Clausen J. Organochlorine compounds in adipose tissue of Greenlanders and southern Danes. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1979 Jul;5(4):617–629. [PubMed]
  • Kinloch D, Kuhnlein H, Muir DC. Inuit foods and diet: a preliminary assessment of benefits and risks. Sci Total Environ. 1992 Jul 15;122(1-2):247–278. [PubMed]
  • Ryan JJ, Dewailly E, Gilman A, Laliberté C, Ayotte P, Rodrigue J. Dioxin-like compounds in fishing people from the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, Quebec, Canada. Arch Environ Health. 1997 Jul-Aug;52(4):309–316. [PubMed]
  • Barrie LA, Gregor D, Hargrave B, Lake R, Muir D, Shearer R, Tracey B, Bidleman T. Arctic contaminants: sources, occurrence and pathways. Sci Total Environ. 1992 Jul 15;122(1-2):1–74. [PubMed]
  • Lockhart WL, Wagemann R, Tracey B, Sutherland D, Thomas DJ. Presence and implications of chemical contaminants in the freshwaters of the Canadian Arctic. Sci Total Environ. 1992 Jul 15;122(1-2):165–245. [PubMed]
  • Thomas DJ, Tracey B, Marshall H, Norstrom RJ. Arctic terrestrial ecosystem contamination. Sci Total Environ. 1992 Jul 15;122(1-2):135–164. [PubMed]
  • Newsome WH, Davies DJ, Sun WF. Residues of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) in fatty foods of the Canadian diet. Food Addit Contam. 1998 Jan;15(1):19–29. [PubMed]
  • Morgan DP, Roan CC. Absorption, storage, and metabolic conversion of ingested DDT and DDT metabolites in man. Arch Environ Health. 1971 Mar;22(3):301–308. [PubMed]
  • Lordo RA, Dinh KT, Schwemberger JG. Semivolatile organic compounds in adipose tissue: estimated averages for the US population and selected subpopulations. Am J Public Health. 1996 Sep;86(9):1253–1259. [PubMed]
  • Lebel G, Dodin S, Ayotte P, Marcoux S, Ferron LA, Dewailly E. Organochlorine exposure and the risk of endometriosis. Fertil Steril. 1998 Feb;69(2):221–228. [PubMed]
  • Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Laliberté C, Weber JP, Gingras S, Nantel AJ. Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene (DDE) concentrations in the breast milk of women in Quebec. Am J Public Health. 1996 Sep;86(9):1241–1246. [PubMed]
  • DURHAM WF, ARMSTRONG JF, UPHOLT WM, HELLER C. Insecticide content of diet and body fat of Alaskan natives. Science. 1961 Dec 8;134(3493):1880–1881. [PubMed]
  • Safe SH. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): environmental impact, biochemical and toxic responses, and implications for risk assessment. Crit Rev Toxicol. 1994;24(2):87–149. [PubMed]
  • Seegal RF. Epidemiological and laboratory evidence of PCB-induced neurotoxicity. Crit Rev Toxicol. 1996 Nov;26(6):709–737. [PubMed]
  • Kuhnlein HV, Kinloch D. PCB's and nutrients in Baffin Island Inuit foods and diets. Arctic Med Res. 1988;47 (Suppl 1):155–158. [PubMed]
  • Kuhnlein HV, Receveur O, Muir DC, Chan HM, Soueida R. Arctic indigenous women consume greater than acceptable levels of organochlorines. J Nutr. 1995 Oct;125(10):2501–2510. [PubMed]
  • Kuhnlein HV. Benefits and risks of traditional food for Indigenous Peoples: focus on dietary intakes of Arctic men. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1995 Jun;73(6):765–771. [PubMed]
  • Dewailly E, Dodin S, Verreault R, Ayotte P, Sauvé L, Morin J, Brisson J. High organochlorine body burden in women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1994 Feb 2;86(3):232–234. [PubMed]
  • Hattula ML, Ikkala J, Isomäki M, Mättä K, Arstila AU. Chlorinated hydrocarbon residues (PCB and DDT) in human liver, adipose tissue and brain in Finland. Acta Pharmacol Toxicol (Copenh) 1976;39(5):545–554. [PubMed]
  • Kuwahara M, Tokiwa M, Orikasa Bacterial infection and acid mucopolysaccharides in epithelium of rat urinary bladder. Urol Res. 1982;10(2):93–96. [PubMed]
  • Bjorseth A, Lunde G, Dybing E. Residues of persistent chlorinated hydrocarbons in human tissues as studied by neutron activation analysis and gas chromatography. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1977 Nov;18(5):581–587. [PubMed]
  • Weistrand C, Norén K. Polychlorinated naphthalenes and other organochlorine contaminants in human adipose and liver tissue. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 1998 Feb 20;53(4):293–311. [PubMed]
  • Adeshina F, Todd EL. Organochlorine compounds in human adipose tissue from north Texas. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1990;29(2):147–156. [PubMed]
  • Frank R, Rasper J, Smout MS, Braun HE. Organochlorine residues in adipose tissues, blood and milk from Ontario residents, 1976-1985. Can J Public Health. 1988 May-Jun;79(3):150–158. [PubMed]
  • Gallelli G, Mangini S, Gerbino C. Organochlorine residues in human adipose and hepatic tissues from autopsy sources in northern Italy. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1995 Nov;46(3):293–300. [PubMed]
  • Mes J, Marchand L, Davies DJ. Organochlorine residues in adipose tissue of Canadians. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1990 Nov;45(5):681–688. [PubMed]
  • Mussalo-Rauhamaa H, Pyysalo H, Moilanen R. Influence of diet and other factors on the levels of organochlorine compounds in human adipose tissue in Finland. J Toxicol Environ Health. 1984;13(4-6):689–704. [PubMed]
  • Burgaz S, Afkham BL, Karakaya AE. Organochlorine pesticide contaminants in human adipose tissue collected in Tebriz (Iran). Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1995 Apr;54(4):546–553. [PubMed]
  • Camps M, Planas J, Gómez-Catalán J, Sabroso M, To-Figueras J, Corbella J. Organochlorine residues in human adipose tissue in Spain: study of an agrarian area. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1989 Feb;42(2):195–201. [PubMed]
  • Gómez-Catalán J, Lezaun M, To-Figueras J, Corbella J. Organochlorine residues in the adipose tissue of the population of Navarra (Spain). Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 1995 Apr;54(4):534–540. [PubMed]
  • Holladay SD, Luster MI. Alterations in fetal thymic and liver hematopoietic cells as indicators of exposure to developmental immunotoxicants. Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Aug;104 (Suppl 4):809–813. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Peterson RE, Theobald HM, Kimmel GL. Developmental and reproductive toxicity of dioxins and related compounds: cross-species comparisons. Crit Rev Toxicol. 1993;23(3):283–335. [PubMed]
  • Stellman SD, Djordjevic MV, Muscat JE, Gong L, Bernstein D, Citron ML, White A, Kemeny M, Busch E, Nafziger AN. Relative abundance of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in adipose tissue and serum of women in Long Island, New York. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1998 Jun;7(6):489–496. [PubMed]
  • Golden RJ, Noller KL, Titus-Ernstoff L, Kaufman RH, Mittendorf R, Stillman R, Reese EA. Environmental endocrine modulators and human health: an assessment of the biological evidence. Crit Rev Toxicol. 1998 Mar;28(2):109–227. [PubMed]

Articles from Environmental Health Perspectives are provided here courtesy of National Institute of Environmental Health Science