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Dioxin-like compounds and bone quality in Cree women of Eastern James Bay (Canada): a cross-sectional study

Alexandra-Cristina Paunescu1, Éric Dewailly1, Sylvie Dodin3, Evert Nieboer4 and Pierre Ayotte12*

Author Affiliations

1 Axe santé des populations et pratiques optimales en santé. Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec, 2875, boulevard Laurier, Édifice Delta 2, bureau 600, Québec, QC G1V 2M2, Canada

2 Laboratoire de toxicologie, INSPQ, 945, avenue Wolfe, Québec, QC G1V 5B3, Canada

3 Axe santé des populations et pratiques optimales en santé. Centre de Recherche du CHU de Québec, Hôpital Saint-François-d'Assise, 10, rue de l’Espinay, Québec, QC G1L 3L5, Canada

4 Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada

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Environmental Health 2013, 12:54  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-54

Published: 2 July 2013



Aboriginal populations living in Canada’s northern regions are exposed to a number of persistent organic pollutants through their traditional diet which includes substantial amounts of predator fish species. Exposure to dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) can cause a variety of toxic effects including adverse effects on bone tissue. This descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted to investigate the relationship between plasma concentrations of DLCs and bone quality parameters in Cree women of Eastern James Bay (Canada).


Two hundred and forty-nine Cree women from seven communities in Eastern James Bay (Canada), aged 35 to 74 years old, participated in the study. In order to determine the total DLC concentration in plasma samples of participants, we measured the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-mediated transcriptional activity elicited by plasma sample extracts using a luciferase reporter gene assay. Plasma concentrations of mono-ortho-substituted dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (DL-PCBs) 105, 118 and 156 were measured by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Bone quality parameters (speed of sound, m/s; broadband ultrasound attenuation, dB/MHz; stiffness index, %) were assessed by quantitative ultrasound at the right calcaneus with the Achilles InSight system. Several factors known to be associated with osteoporosis were documented by questionnaire. Multiple linear regression models were constructed for the three ultrasound parameters.


DL-PCBs 105 and 118 concentrations, but not the global DLC concentration, were inversely associated with the stiffness index, even after adjusting for several confounding factors. The stiffness index (log) decreased by −0.22% (p=0.0414) and −0.04% (p=0.0483) with an increase of one μg/L in plasma concentrations of DL-PCB 105 and DL-PCB 118, respectively. Other factors, including age, height, smoking status, menopausal status and the percentage of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in erythrocyte membranes were negatively associated with one of the ultrasound parameters, while the percentage of omega-3 PUFAs in these membranes and levels of physical activity and education were positively associated with them.


Our results show that an increase in plasma concentrations of DL-PCBs 105 and 118 was negatively associated with stiffness index, a measure of bone quality/strength, in women of this population. In addition to environmental contaminants, future studies should also consider PUFA intake as a factor influencing bone quality.

Calcaneal Ultrasound Parameters; Dioxin-Like Compounds; Polychlorinated Biphenyls; Cree Women; Canada