Written by Nereus Fellow, Tiff-Annie Kenny
Approximately one quarter of all deaths world-wide (~12.6 million) are attributable to environmental risk factors (e.g. pollution, chemical exposure, climate change). In particular, exposures during fetal development and early childhood may cause health problems in later life.
Spanning big data, biomonitoring, and “-omics” research, to knowledge translation and mobilization, the Joint Annual Meeting of the International Society of Exposure Science and the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISES-ISEE 2018) convened researchers, policy makers, and public health practitioners in Ottawa (August 26 – 30th) to exchange innovative approaches for assessing and addressing complex issues of environmental health concerns. The meeting was attended by Nereus PI Dr. Laurie Chan and Senior Fellow Tiff-Annie Kenny.
Dr. Chan co-chaired a session on ‘Food, Nutrition and Environmental Health among First Nations in Canada’. The session included a presentation by Dr. Donna Mergler on the enduring legacy of mercury exposure from local fish in Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation), half a century after thousands of tons of mercury-containing industrial effluent were dumped into the Wabigoon-English river system, relied upon by the community as their main source of food and livelihoods for generations (i.e. guides and commercial fishery). The study presented by Dr. Mergler, and co-lead with community leaders, is the first population-based study in Grassy Narrows to link fish consumption practices to various health, wellness, and individual outcomes.
The study also provides evidence of significantly poorer physical and mental health in Grassy Narrows, relative to other First Nations in Ontario and Canada. The conference also included a dedicated session on Chemical Exposures and Fish Consumption, which featured (among others) presentations on seafood consumption and mercury exposure among Chicago Asian Communities and Michigan Urban Anglers. An emphasis through these and other sessions, was the importance of applied, translational and community-engaged environmental health research for linking knowledge, intervention, and local and global policy to improve public health and mitigate exposure to environmental stressors. Notably, The Namaus (All Things Fish) Project presented by Dr. Marcella Thompson, showcased the success of a long-term mutually beneficial partnership with the Narragansett tribal community (Charlestown, Rhode Island) based on trust, mutual respect, and meaningful inclusion of both scientific and local knowledge.
Complimentary to the ISES-ISEE 2018 Tiff-Annie attended a two-day side-meeting with Canadian and international experts to inform the planning of a proposed international study involving contaminant exposure among coastal seafood-dependent populations. Through the exposome research paradigm (i.e. the totality of human environmental exposures through the life course – from conception onward), the proposed research initiative will seek to identify and address regions with elevated exposures to contaminants, pathogens, and toxins via consumption of marine-source foods – emphasizing regions highly susceptible to the effects of climate change and fisheries decline.