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Your Environment. Your Health.


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Principal Investigator: Von Hippel, Frank Arthur
Institute Receiving Award University Of Arizona
Location Tucson, AZ
Grant Number R01ES032392
Funding Organization National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Award Funding Period 20 May 2021 to 28 Feb 2026
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Our previous community-based participatory research at Northeast Cape (NEC) on St. Lawrence Island (SLI) found elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), and mercury (Hg) in sediments and biota within the watershed at the formerly used defense (FUD) site. We found elevated OCPs and PCBs in serum of the SLI people due to both long-range transport and military-derived sources, with the highest levels of PCBs in people who have traditional and familial connections with NEC, including subsistence. Concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in our resident fish model, the stickleback, closely mirror concentrations in the blood serum of SLI residents, indicating their efficacy as sentinel species on SLI. Despite extensive remediation at NEC, short-lived lower trophic level fish in the Suqitughneq (Suqi) River remain contaminated with PCBs, OCPs, and Hg originating from the FUD site, at levels that exceed EPA fish consumption guidelines for cancer risk. Elevated contaminant levels and disrupted health in Suqi River fish indicate potential health threats for residents and that site remediation is incomplete. Our overarching goal is to advance scientific understanding of the exposure pathways and long-term human health consequences associated with contaminant exposure from FUD sites and inform interventions necessary to protect the health and long-term well-being of the people of SLI as they re-establish their traditional community at NEC. In Aim 1, we propose to build on our prior discoveries and continue our collaboration with the communities of SLI to investigate potential exposure pathways and biological impacts of persistent contamination associated with the FUD site at NEC on SLI. We will analyze PCBs, OCPs, and Hg in the water of the Suqi and Tapisaggak rivers, as well as in traditional foods and air samples to assess ingestion and inhalation as potential exposure pathways. We will build on work with stickleback as a sentinel species to determine biological effects of contaminants on endocrine function and organ-specific histopathology. In Aim 2, we will characterize and quantify body burden of contaminants, and linkages to health outcomes, in people associated with NEC. In Aim 3, we will inform decisions and interventions to protect the health of the people of SLI and enable re- establishment of the traditional community at NEC. We will provide information that will lead to improved remediation, provide data and traditional knowledge to inform public health consultations and assessments, and develop a community-based public health action plan and interventions to protect health, ensure equity in decision-making, and restore the NEC community. This study will have local and circumpolar arctic implications for Indigenous communities. Locally, we will provide data and implement actions necessary for re- establishing the community at NEC. Given that thousands of such Cold War military sites exist throughout the Arctic, often in close proximity to Indigenous communities, our project may serve as a model for environmental and health monitoring and policy action by other Arctic Indigenous Peoples.
Science Code(s)/Area of Science(s) Primary: 97 - Partnerships for Environmental Public Health/Community Research
Secondary: 03 - Carcinogenesis/Cell Transformation
Publications See publications associated with this Grant.
Program Officer Liam O'Fallon
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