A new study that measured levels of PCB's in native youth from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation in northern New York state, Quebec, and Ontario shows levels twice the national average in the youth tested. The findings come more than 25 years after the Akwesansnes were told to alter their traditional diet high in fish.
The highest levels were found in first-borns, those who were breastfed, and those who ate fish in the prior year.
The Akwesasne territory is adjacent to a GE hazardous waste Superfund site. The GE factory used PCB's in its hydraulic fluid used in their machinery. Aluminum smelters in the area also contributed to PCB contamination.
Fish is an important food source for our indigenous populations. In my area of northeast Washington State, studies are ongoing along the upper Columbia River to determine the risks of eating fish contaminated by years of industrial contamination from Teck Cominco, now Teck Resources, in Trail, British Columbia. Many members of the Colville Confederated Tribes, who live along the upper Columbia, subsist on fish out of the river. Each new study comes with a warning. Pregnant women and children should limit the amount of meals containing fish from the river and certain fish should be limited by everyone. Bottom feeding fish are especially contaminated.
It is tragic that our native people have to choose between their traditional way of subsistence or elevated cancer risk.
We can't undo the mistakes made in the past, but we need to be vigilant in preventing further contamination of our lakes, rivers and oceans so that future generations can benefit from a healthy fish-based diet.
For more information on the recent study published in the journal Chemosphere go here.
Thanks for reading!