22 January 2019

Lecture: Impact of Climate Change and environmental Pollution on Population Health in the Arctic

Author/Compiled by
Tatiana Unguryanu, Northern State Medical University, Russia

Executive Summary

This lecture covers the questions about the health outcomes associated with climate change and environmental pollution in the Arctic region. Direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human health are discussed. Sources of water and food contamination are shown and recommendations concerning consumption of traditional foods are presented. Some results of the AMAP’s biomonitoring are given.


Factsheet Block Body

Climate change and its social implications including effects on human health are among the most important challenges in the Arctic. Many indigenous populations in the Arctic region have worse health than national averages. While socioeconomic conditions and lifestyle choices are major determinants of health, contaminants may also have a contributing effect. Exposure to environmental contaminants through the traditional diet remains one of the risks to human health in the Arctic. Toxicological studies show that contaminants, at the levels found in some parts of the Arctic, have the potential for adverse health effects in people. Epidemiological studies, looking specifically at Arctic residents, provide evidence for immunological, cardiovascular, and reproductive effects due to contaminants in some Arctic populations.

Learning Objectives

Factsheet Block Body

At the end of this lecture students will be able to:

  • Describe direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human health in the Arctic region
  • Present sources of water and food contamination and comparative analysis the relative contribution to contaminant exposure of different types of food
  • Compare results of the AMAP’s biomonitoring about human exposure by persistent organic pollutants, mercury and other contaminants among Arctic populations


Factsheet Block Body

Library References

AMAP Assessment 2009: Human Health in the Arctic

This assessment report details the results of the 2009 AMAP assessment of Human Health in the Arctic. It builds upon the previous AMAP human health assessments that were presented in 19981 and 2022.

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) is a group working under the Arctic Council.

(2009): AMAP Assessment 2009: Human Health in the Arctic. Oslo, Norway: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) URL [Accessed: 30.07.2018]

Human Health

This paper discusses the health impacts of climate changes on arctic residents. Stating that it is crucial to understand, collect and organize information indicative of the changes taking place and their potential impacts, the article proposes a series of community indicators to support the development of monitoring and decision-making ability within northern regions and communities.

BERNER J., FURGAL, CH. (2005): Human Health. In: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment: URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]

Food and Water Security Indicators in an Arctic Health Context

This report aims to provide a basis for indicator selection that is relevant for food and water security in the circumpolar areas and which could be used in international collaborations of surveillance in the Arctic. Indicators used in scientific papers and in official statistics from all eight countries involved have been considered. The authors found 21 potential indicators of food and water security that could be used for further initiatives in an Arctic health context.

NILSSON, L.M., EVENGARD, B. (2013): Food and Water Security Indicators in an Arctic Health Context. A report by the AHHEG/SDWG, and the AMAP/HHAG during the Swedish chairmanship of the Arctic Council 2011-2013. Umea, Sweden: Arctic Research Center at Umea University URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]

Climate change and zoonotic infections in the Russian Arctic

This review presents data on morbidity rates among people, domestic animals and wildlife in the Russian Arctic, focusing on the potential climate related emergence of such diseases as tick-borne encephalitis, tularemia, brucellosis, leptospirosis, rabies, and anthrax.

REVICH, B., TOKAREVICH, N., PARKINSON, A. J. (2012): Climate change and zoonotic infections in the Russian Arctic. In: International Journal of Circumpolar Health: Volume 71 URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018] PDF

Levels and trends of contaminants in humans of the Arctic

This paper is part of the Special Issue Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) is tasked with monitoring the levels of contaminants present in the Arctic environment and people as well as assessing their effects on a continuous basis, and reporting these results regularly. Most of the presented data have been collected over the last 20 years and are from all eight Arctic countries. Levels of contaminants appear to be declining in some of the monitored Arctic populations, but it is not consistent across the Arctic. Most Arctic populations continue to experience elevated levels of these contaminants compared to other populations monitored globally.

GIBSON, J., ADLARD, B., OLAFSDOTTIR, K., MANNING SANDANGER, T. and OYVIND ODLAND, J.  (2016): Levels and trends of contaminants in humans of the Arctic. In: International Journal of Circumpolar Health: Volume 75 , 10. URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018] PDF
Further Readings

Comparative Review of Circumpolar Health Systems

Health care for remote, sparsely populated communities in the circumpolar North faces substantial organizational, financial, logistical, technical, and human resource challenges. Circumpolar regions share many common features but have evolved vastly different health care systems and policies. Identifying, evaluating and comparing approaches to policy development, best practices and successful models across the various regions represent a potentially useful strategy to improve and strengthen northern health systems.

YOUNG, K. and MARCHILDON, G. (2012): Comparative Review of Circumpolar Health Systems. International Association of Circumpolar Health Publishers URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]

Arctic Human Development Report (AHDR)

Arctic Human Development Report

The goals of this report are to provide an update to the first AHDR (2004) in terms of an assessment of the state of Arctic human development; to highlight the major trends and changes unfolding related to the various issues and thematic areas of human development in the Arctic over the past decade; and, based on this as- sessment, to identify policy relevant conclusions and key gaps in knowledge, new and emerging Arctic success stories, and important AHDR-II follow-up activities.

BANKES, N. et al. Larsen, J. N. and Fondahl, G. (2014): Arctic Human Development Report (AHDR). TemaNord URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]

AMAP Assessment 2015: Human Health in the Arctic

The 2015 Human Health Assessment Report follows three previous AMAP assessments on human health (AMAP 1998, 2003, 2009) and represents the current knowledge base after 25 years of focused study. This report includes new knowledge, updates and fills information gaps identified in past reports, and focuses attention on the most recent integrated scientific knowledge related to environmental contaminants and human health. It does not update information concerning the levels and effects of radioactivity and UV-radiation; these topics were addressed in the first comprehensive AMAP Assessment Report (AMAP 1998). The AMAP 2015 collects and discuss all the data from the relevant cohorts and surveys carried out in Inuits groups of Alaska, Canada and Greenland. It describes the projects, the results as the levels of contaminants found in the areas, the health that these contaminants can cause, future risks, and risk communication.

DONALDSON, S. SYMON, C. (2015): AMAP Assessment 2015: Human Health in the Arctic. Oslo, Norway: Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) URL [Accessed: 07.06.2018]
Training Material

Alternative Versions to