Human health is linked to environmental conditions, and changes in the natural environment may have subtle, or dramatic, effects on health. Disturbances in any of the multifaceted processes involving growth may significantly alter normal physical growth. Substantial concern exists over possible effects of endocrine disrupting compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenynltrichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolite dichlorophenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE), and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) on human health.
The impact of environmental pollutants on growth and development is a longstanding concern for the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation located on the St. Lawrence River. Akwesasne youth are potentially exposed to toxicants via several sources both pre- and postnatally. Gaps are evident in our knowledge of the potential effects of toxicants on physical growth.
This project describes basic anthropometric characteristics (height, weight, skinfolds, circumferences and body breadths) to assess body size and shape of Akwesasne Mohawk youth between the ages of 10.0 and 16.99 (n=271). Additionally, this study investigates the relationship of PCB, p,p' -DDE, and HCB levels with height and weight. Organochlorines and serum PCBs were assessed by congener specific analysis allowing separate measurement of persistent and non-persistent PCB congeners, reflecting long-term and recent exposure respectively.
Mean height of Akwesasne Mohawk youth approximates the 50th percentile of reference values as determined by the 2000 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts. At every age, weight means of males approximate or exceed the 90th percentile and all mean weights of females approximate the 85th percentile. Results of the relationship between toxicants and height and weight indicate that persistent PCBs, HCB, and p,p'-DDE have a significant inverse relationship with weight. Conversely, p,p'-DDE and HCB exhibit a strong, positive relationship with the height.
The potential for long-term health effects associated with being overweight has implications for the future health of young Native Americans. Given the numerous studies emphasizing the importance of body fat distribution as a risk factor for chronic, obesity-related diseases prevalent within Native American communities, and the high level of fatness presented in this study, more concerted efforts need to be applied to help reduce the development of overweight in children from an early age.