An examination of traditional foods and cigarette smoking as cadmium sources among the nine First Nations of Eeyou Istchee, northern Quebec, Canada
Cadmium (Cd), a nonessential toxic metal present in the environment, accumulates in the organs of herbivorous mammals which typically are consumed by Aboriginal populations. The relative contribution of this potential exposure source to concentrations of blood Cd was investigated in 1429 participants (age >7 years) residing in the nine Cree First Nations communities of Eeyou Istchee, northern Quebec, Canada. Analysis of variance identified significant Cd concentration differences between communities, sex, and age groups, although these were complicated by significant 2-way interactions. The percentage of participants with Cd concentrations within the adopted health-based guideline categories of ‘acceptable’, ‘concern’ and ‘action’ pertaining to kidney damage was 56.2%, 38.3%, and 5.5%, respectively. Partial correlations (controlling for age as a continuous variable) did not show a significant association between consumption of traditional foods and Cd concentrations (r = 0.014, df = 105, p = 0.883). A significant and positive partial correlation (r = 0.390, df = 105, p < 0.001) was observed between Cd concentrations and number of cigarettes smoked daily. Analysis of covariance (with mean daily organ meat consumption over the year as a covariate) confirmed that smokers had significantly higher levels of blood Cd than non-smokers (F1,1109 = 1918.2, p < 0.001), and that traditional food consumption was not a good predictor of Cd exposure. Our findings suggest that consumption of traditional foods should not be restricted in Eeyou Istchee for fear of increased Cd exposure risk. Further studies of smoking prevalence among the Cree First Nations and additional public health initiatives to reduce smoking are recommended.