There are many small villages where environmental contamination is substantial due to historical industrial activities. The aim of the present study was to investigate if long-term or current consumption of local foods, as reported in food frequency questionnaires, co-vary with measured concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg) in blood, urine and hair from a population living in a historically contaminated village. Blood, urine and hair were provided by men (n=38) and women (n=57), who had participated in a previous case-control study in the contaminated area, and were analyzed for PCB, OCPs, Pb, Cd and Hg. A detailed food frequency questionnaire, used in the previous epidemiological study, was repeated, and up-dated information of life-style, exposure factors and other covariates was collected. Associations between reported consumption of local foods and exposure biomarkers were explored in relation to age, gender, life-style factors and other covariates. A large part of the population in the area reported consumption of local food, and thus, was potentially exposed to the contaminants. Despite the limited number of participants and other weaknesses described, it was possible to link reported consumption of different foods to biomarker concentrations. Reported consumption of local vegetables, forest berries and mushrooms co-varied with urinary Cd, indicating an influence from the contaminated area on the Cd exposure. We found no associations between PCB plasma concentrations with reported consumption of local fish, but with consumption of herring (non-local sea fish) which is typically high in PCB. Pesticide (HCB, p,p'-DDE, trans-nonachlor) exposure was mainly associated with agricultural work and having a private well the first five years of life, but we found no associations between pesticide concentrations in plasma and consumption of local vegetables or fish. Exposure to Hg was associated with consumption of fish, both local and non-local, and Pb exposure was associated with the consumption of game. Overall, the contaminant concentrations measured in blood, urine and hair varied substantially among study participants, but on average, the concentrations were similar to concentrations measured in other groups of the general Swedish population in the same age range. Larger studies are needed to evaluate health risks (and causality) associated with historical environmental contamination.
2015. Vol. 76, 41-8 p.
We express our gratitude to the participating population. We thank the research nurse Louice Eskilsson for an excellent assistance in sample collection and for the dispatch of questionnaires together with Anna-Lena Hallsten. The study was partially financed by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, grant no. 502-4531-09.