Dr. Laurie Chan and his team from the University of Ottawa are pleased to announce that the first phase of the Yellowknife Health Effects Monitoring Program (YKHEMP) is complete, giving local residents a comprehensive baseline picture of the level of arsenic exposure and other metals for the first time. The results of the study demonstrate that, overall, residents of Yellowknife, Ndılǫ, and Dettah are within a similar range of exposure to arsenic to the rest of Canada,” explained Dr. Chan.

Having achieved this primary goal, the YKHEMP team will help ensure the Giant Mine Remediation Project does not negatively affect the health of the communities in the course of its activities.

During their study, Dr. Chan and his team measured arsenic concentrations in urine and toenail samples collected from participants. Lead and cadmium concentrations were also measured in the urine samples. With over 2000 participants, the results obtained by Dr. Chan’s team allow a direct comparison with the Canadian general population results collected in the Canadian Health Measures Survey.

The study also looked to establish a baseline level of exposure using toenail samples, which allow for a longer point-in-time comparison than urine sampling can establish. As there are currently no guidelines for arsenic in toenails, increased support is offered to the individuals who had higher levels of arsenic in their toenail samples, based on the recommendations of the NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer. The Chief Public Health Officer, as well as other health advisors from the Government of the Northwest Territories Department of Health and Social Services and from Health Canada, have been actively involved on the study’s Advisory Committee since it was launched in 2017.

Establishing this baseline was crucial to the accurate monitoring of contaminant exposure in the years to come. Arsenic occurs naturally in the Yellowknife area because of the local geological formations, and this means the YKHEMP study currently cannot distinguish whether recent arsenic exposures come from natural sources, dietary sources, or from the former mines. The study will be repeated every five years to follow the trend of exposure and investigate the potential association with general population health.

The summary results were shared with the public during three community meetings with three different population groups (Yellowknife general population, North Slave Métis Alliance and Yellowknives Dene First Nation) between May 14th and June 8th, 2019.


Progress Report 2020

This report provides an overview of the YKHEMP 2017-28 sampling project, as well as a description of the results.

Results Brochure 2021

This illustrated, plain-language brochure provides information on the YKHEMP study, reasons for the study, results from the 2017-2018 sample collection, and some background on arsenic and Giant Mine.


Arsenic exposure through fish

From 2013-2018, we caught fish from various lakes around Yellowknife and measured their arsenic levels. Our research was published in the Journal of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.