Organochlorines, lead, and mercury in Akwesasne Mohawk youth

Lawrence M. Schell, Lech A. Hubicki, Anthony P. DeCaprio, Mia V. Gallo, Julia Ravenscroft, Alice Tarbell, Agnes Jacobs, Dawn David, Priscilla Worswick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Most humans have detectable body burdens of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and p,p′-dichlorophenyldichloroethylene (p,p′-DDE), a metabolite of p,p′-dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). Native American communities may be at increased risk of exposure through subsistence-based diets and greater physical contact with contaminated soil and water. In this article we describe the levels of toxicants (PCBs, p,p′-DDE, HCB, mirex, lead, and mercury) among youth 10-17 years old (n = 271) of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. Ultratrace, congener-specific PCB analysis of human serum quantitated 83 PCB congeners (plus 18 as pairs/triplets), in addition to p,p′-DDE, HCB, and mirex, and included all major Aroclor-derived congeners typically present in human samples. Twenty congeners (in 16 chromatographic peaks) were detected in 50% or more of the individuals sampled [geometric mean (GM) of the sum of these congeners = 0.66 ppb]. Thirteen congeners (in 10 peaks) were detected in 75% or more of the samples (GM = 0.51 ppb). Of the 20 congeners detected in 50% or more of the samples, 17 had five or more chlorine substitutions. International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry congeners 118, 101(+90), and 153 were detected in nearly all participants (GM = 0.06 ppb, 0.05 ppb, 0.09 ppb, respectively). p,p′-DDE and HCB were detected in 100% and 98% of the samples (GM: p,p′-DDE = 0.37 ppb; HCB = 0.03 ppb). Mirex was detected in approximately 46% of the samples (GM = 0.02 ppb). No cases of elevated lead level were observed. One participant had a mercury level marginally higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's current level of concern (0.50 μg/dL). Although differences in analytic methods and participant ages limit comparability, toxicant levels from the Mohawk youth are lower than those associated with severe food contamination (Yusho and Yu-cheng) but similar to other chronically exposed groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-961
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003


  • Adolescents
  • Iroquois
  • Native American
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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