Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 93, Supplement 1, pp S57–S61 | Cite as

Sentinel Human Health Indicators: To Evaluate the Health Status of Vulnerable Communities

  • Heraline E. HicksEmail author
  • Christopher T. De Rosa


The presence of toxic substances in the Great Lakes (GL) basin continues to be a significant concern. In the United States, some 70,000 commercial and industrial compounds are now in use. More than 30,000 are produced or used in the Great Lakes ecosystem. These substances include organochlorines (e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, furans, dieldrin, etc.), heavy metals such as methylmercury, and alkylated lead, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g., benzo[a]pyrene). The IJC has identified 42 locations in the GL basin of the United States and Canada as Areas of Concern (AOCs) because of high concentrations of these toxic substances. In 1990 the U.S. Congress amended the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act to create The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Great Lakes Human Health Effects Research Program (GLHHERP) to begin to address these issues. This program characterizes exposures to contaminants via consumption of GL fish and investigates the potential for short- and long-term adverse health effects. This paper reviews the GLHHERP program and indicators established to monitor and address the risks posed by these substances to vulnerable populations in the Great Lakes ecosystem.


La présence de substances toxiques dans le bassin hydrographique des Grands Lacs constitue encore une préoccupation importante. Aux États-Unis, on utilise quelque 70 000 composés chimiques à des fins commerciales et industrielles. Plus de 30 000 d’entre eux sont produits ou employés dans l’écosystème des Grands Lacs. Les composés organochlorés (p. ex. les diphényls polychlorés [BPC], les dioxines, les furannes, la dieldrine, etc.), les métaux lourds comme le méthylmercure, ainsi que l’alkylplomb et les hydrocarbures aromatiques polycycliques (p. ex. le benzo[a]pyrène) en font partie. La CMI a désigné 42 endroits dans le bassin des Grands Lacs aux États-Unis et au Canada comme secteurs préoccupants en raison de la présence de fortes concentrations de ces substances toxiques. Aux États-Unis, le Congrès a modifié en 1990 la Great Lakes Critical Programs Act en vue de créer l’Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, responsable de l’application du Great Lakes Human Health Effects Research Program (GLHHERP), et qui a commencé à régler les problèmes causés par les substances toxiques. Le GLHHERP définit les expositions aux contaminants liées à la consommation de poissons provenant des Grands Lacs et se penche sur leurs effets nocifs à court et à long terme. Les auteurs examinent le programme GLHHERP et les indicateurs retenus pour surveiller et contrer les risques que posent de telles substances pour les populations à risque de l’écosystème des Grands Lacs.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesAgency for Toxic Substances and Disease RegistryAtlantaUSA

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