Exposure to persistent organic pollutants and risk of hypertension among Inuit from Greenland

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Exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is of concern in Arctic populations since these contaminants accumulate in fish and marine mammals, which is an important part of the traditional diet of these populations. Epidemiological and experimental studies have reported significant associations between POPs and increased blood pressure (BP) in populations with different degrees of exposure.


We aimed to assess the risk of hypertension related to increasing levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine (OC) pesticides.


Fifteen PCBs and 11 OC pesticides or their metabolites were determined in plasma of 1614 Inuit adults ≥18 years living in 9 towns and 13 villages in Greenland. BP was measured using a standardized protocol. The risk of hypertension was estimated through logistic regression using POPs as continuous variables (log-transformed). Hypertension was defined as systolic BP ≥140 mm Hg, diastolic BP ≥90 mm Hg and/or antihypertensive treatment.


Overall, the odd ratios (ORs) of hypertension were not statistically significant for dioxin-like PCBs, non-dioxin-like PCBs and OC pesticides after adjusting for confounders. Once the analyses were stratified by age category (18-39 and ≥40 years), increased risk of hypertension was observed for total dioxin-like PCBs among the youngest [OR: 1.34 (95% CI: 1.03-1.74)] while a borderline protective effect was observed for total non-dioxin-like PCBs [OR: 0.81 (95% CI: 0.66-0.99)] among the oldest. Higher risk of hypertension was also associated with increasing p,p′-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) concentrations among the youngest [OR: 1.42 (95% CI: 1.08-1.85)].


Overall, no significant associations were observed between PCBs, OC pesticides and blood pressure in this highly exposed population although the associations differed by age category.

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