PFAS in the Arctic: Identifying exposure sources & health effects in Nunavik, Canada

February 28, 2023
4:00 pm US Eastern Time

McGill University
Download our Webinar Highlights fact sheet for key findings and quotes from this webinar. View a recording of this CHE Alaska webinar here.

Perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), a subset of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are a group of chemicals used in industrial production, firefighting foams and food packaging materials. These chemicals are used for commercial and residential applications and repel water and oil.

Because of their toxicity and environmental persistence, the occurrence and transportation of PFAS is a concern all over the world. PFAS are also harmful to human health, including being associated with cancer, heart disease, birth defects, liver disease, and decreased immunity.

Our guest speaker was Dr. Amira Aker, who has conducted community-based participatory research with her Inuit colleagues to identify exposure sources and health effects of PFAS in Nunavik, Quebec. PFAAs travel north on oceanic and atmospheric currents and bioaccumulate in wildlife species consumed by Inuit populations living in the Arctic, including marine mammals, fish and caribou. This leads to high concentrations of these chemicals in wildlife essential to the cultural identity and subsistence of Arctic Indigenous populations.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the tribes, and academic research partners have documented long-term environmental and health consequences of PFAS contamination in traditional foods of the Yupik people of Sivuqaq (St. Lawrence Island). Arctic Indigenous Peoples have some of the highest levels of persistent pollutants of any population on earth.

Dr. Aker’s broader research interests include the intersection between environmental chemical exposure and social factors on women’s health.

Featured Speaker

Dr. Amira Aker is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Université Laval and the Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec. She is an environmental epidemiologist and her research centers around protecting systematically and structurally excluded populations from contaminants of emerging concern, with a particular interest in Arctic communities. She is currently studying the exposure sources of perfluoroalkyl substances and their health effects on cardiometabolic outcomes and immunological function in Inuit communities in Nunavik.

Dr. Aker received her PhD in Environmental Health Sciences from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto Scarborough focused on chronic disease.

This call was hosted by the CHE-Alaska Partnership, which is coordinated by Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT).