Skip to main content

Screening for Emerging Arctic health Risks to Circumpolar Human populations (SEARCH)

This project is part of the Université Laval / University of Tromsø research partnership.


Principal investigators

Pierre AyotteTorkjel M. Sandanger


Golnoush Abbasi, Pierre Dumas, Mélanie LemireNicholas Warner


Marie-Josée Gauthier, Geir W Gabrielsen, Kjetil Sagerup


Although levels of several contaminants in Arctic human populations have been decreasing during the last decades, there is clear indications that the complexity of the contaminant cocktail is increasing as levels of several compounds are on the rise. Recognising that contaminant exposure among circumpolar populations is affected by regional differences in local sources, long-range transport, diet and legislation, there is an urgent need to establish a collaborative framework within circumpolar nations to address exposure risks to humans from both emerging and unknown contaminants. The primary objective of this project is to establish a collaborative framework (SEARCH) for detecting and describing time trends contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in Arctic populations, which is of great importance for international environmental management. Combining analytical capabilities between the University of Tromsø (UiT) / Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and Université Laval (ULaval)/Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) with complementary state of the art technologies, we will address analytical challenges associated with CECs and identification of unknown exposure risks. Access to bio-banked blood samples from Northern Norway and Nunavik (northern Quebec, Canada) populations will allow addressing time trends and geographical differences in exposure to emerging environmental contaminants in circumpolar regions.

Retrospective analysis of stored high-resolution accurate mass data obtained within SEARCH will provide a database to assess emerging exposure risks. Furthermore, established methodologies will be applied to key dietary items provided by UiT/NILU, ULaval/INSPQ and their partners in Nunavik and northern Norway to assess sources of exposure to emerging chemicals from the surrounding ecosystems. Finally, we will examine how regulatory and non-regulatory actions, as well as national implementation plans under Stockholm Convention to reduce or eliminate persistent organic pollutants (POPs), affected the long-term exposure of Arctic populations in Norway and Canada. The results of this study will provide essential knowledge to policy makers for the inclusion of CECs in current legislations, in order to better protect Arctic ecosystems from further exposure in a timely manner.