Cold Lake First Nations traditional plant quality study

Fiscal Year



Cold Lake First Nation, Alberta

Principal Investigator

Claire McAuley, M.Sc., Intrinsik Corp.

Community Project Lead

Darren Frederick

Project Members

Chris Akomolafe, Sarah Chileen, Findlay MacDermid and Jordan Robinson



Project Summary

Numerous plant species have been consumed as part of the traditional diet of Cold Lake First Nations, which is located in Alberta. To address community concerns regarding the impact of both the oil and gas industry in the area and the military activities at the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR), this study analyzed samples of berries and mint as well as companion soil samples at different locations for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and a suite of 35 metals, including mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium.  A food frequency questionnaire was administered to provide community consumption rates of berries and mint. Finally, a human health risk assessment (HHRA) was completed to assess the level of risk to the community from exposure to heavy metals and PAHs contained in these foods.

The results of this study showed that the concentrations of metals in raspberry, Saskatoon berries, cranberry and mint  were generally very low or not detectable. No PAHs were detected in any plant samples. There was no difference between the quality of plants harvested near or far from oil and gas activity. Also, there were no differences between the level of contaminants found in those plants harvested on the CLAWR versus those harvested off the CLAWR. The study concluded that berries harvested by Cold Lake First Nations were safe to consume in the amounts reported by community members.