Littoral Chair research project

Pregnancy Wellness with Country Foods

Nutaratsaliit qanuingisiarningit niqituinnanut (NQN) 

Nutaratsaliit qanuingisiarningit niqituinnanut


Despite a decrease in exposure to certain contaminants, mercury remains an important issue in the North, particularly among pregnant women in Nunavik. Since 2011, our team has been assessing local food sources of mercury and nutrients in Nunavik to understand the effects of mercury exposure, nutrient intake and food security during pregnancy and on child development. Recent data of pregnant women in Nunavik continue to show high levels of mercury exposure, particularly in summer when beluga meat consumption is at its peak. Given the high prevalence of food insecurity in Nunavik and the central role of traditional foods, a more consolidated approach with communities and local health professionals is now being put forward to prevent mercury exposure while promoting traditional foods at the same time.


Promote healthy pregnancies and healthy child development in the communities of Nunavik and other circumpolar regions

PHASE I (2016-2018)

  1. Contribute to the biomonitoring efforts of several environmental contaminants, and assess nutritional status, anemia and food security among pregnant women in Nunavik 
  2. Evaluate the understanding and effectiveness of dietary recommendations and health advice provided to pregnant women by health professionals

PHASE II (2019-2020)

  1. Identify information needs and provide information sessions on environmental contaminants
  2. Assess the feasibility of integrating mercury and lead exposure monitoring and prevention into clinical pregnancy follow-up activities

PHASE III (en attente de financement)

  1. Further analyze data collected between 2016 and 2018;
  2. Examine mercury levels in traditional foods identified  in our consultations in 2019-2020
  3. Support and develop various knowledge sharing and mobilization activities related to the promotion of traditional foods, contaminants, nutrients and food security in Nunavik

Team members involved

Funded by
  • Programme de lutte contre les contaminants dans le Nord
  • Relations Couronne-Autochtones et Affaires du Nord Canada 
Principal investigators
  • Mélanie Lemire
  • Pierre Ayotte (Institut national de santé publique du Québec/Université Laval)
  • Chris Furgal (Université Trent)
  • Matthew Little
  • Mario Brisson
  • Sylvie Ricard
  • Marc Amyot
  • Élyse Caron-Beaudoin
  • Janie Allaire
  • Adriano Magesky

Pontual M., Ayotte P., Little M., Furgal C., Boyd A., Muckle G., Avard E., Ricard S., Gauthier M.J., Laouan Sidi E.A., Lemire M. (2021) Seasonal Variations in Exposure to Methylmercury and its Dietary Sources among Pregnant Inuit Women in Nunavik, Canada. STOTEN.

Caron-Beaudoin E., Ayotte P., Blanchette C., Muckle G., Avard E., Ricard S., Lemire M. (2020) Perfluoroalkyl acids in pregnant women from Nunavik (Quebec, Canada): trends in exposure and associations with country foods consumption. Environment International.

Adamou T, Riva M, Muckle G, Laouan Sidi E, Lemire M., Ayotte P. (2020) Blood mercury and plasma polychlorinated biphenyls concentrations in pregnant Inuit women from Nunavik: Temporal Trends, 1992-2017. STOTEN. 743: 140495.

Martinez-Levasseur LM, Furgal C, Burness G, Simard M, Avard E, Lemire M. (2020) Towards a better understanding of the benefits and risks of country food consumption using the case of walrus in Nunavik (Northern Quebec, Canada). Science of the Total Environment. 719: 137307. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137307

Rapinski M, Cuerrier A, Harris C, Lemire M. (2018) Inuit perception of marine organisms: from folk classification to food harvest. Journal of Ethnobiology. 38(3): 333-355. DOI: 10.2993/0278-0771-38.3.333

Pirkle C, Muckle G, Lemire M. (2016) Managing mercury exposure in Northern Canadian communities: State of the evidence and guidance for health professionals. Canadian Medical Association Journal 188(14): 1015–1023. DOI:10.1503/cmaj.151138

Lemire M., Kwan M., Laouan-Sidi A.E., Muckle G., Pirkle C., Ayotte P., and Dewailly E. (2015) Local country food sources of methylmercury, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids in Nunavik, northern Quebec. Science of the Total Environment – Special issue on mercury Canada’s North 509-510:248-59. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.07.102.



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