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Your Environment. Your Health.

Oregon State University

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Anna Harding
Grant Number: P42ES016465
Funding Period: 2009-2019

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Project Summary (2013-2019)

The Community Engagement Core (CEC) facilitates collaborations among OSU researchers and Native American Tribes in the Pacific Northwest to address Tribal concerns regarding exposure to chemicals in their environment, with a focus on understanding exposure pathways to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Their community partners are the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and the Samish Indian Nation. Tribal communities experience exposure to PAHs and many chemicals on the CERCLA priority list from diverse sources: they reside on reservations impacted by hazardous waste sites, they collect subsistence foods from contaminated waterways, and they gather traditional foods from contaminated lands. Housing characteristics and traditional practices such as smoking foods also contribute to their chemical exposures.

The cumulative exposures from these unique pathways may increase the risk of environmentally-related disease. It is critically important that Tribal communities understand these exposures and develop culturally appropriate responses and risk reduction strategies because they cannot move from their homelands to avoid contaminants and they cannot give up their culture or their religion. In turn, the research community must develop the cultural capacity to work with Tribal communities according to the principles of community-based research.

The OSU CEC is:

  1. Addressing CTUIR concerns regarding their environmental exposures
  2. Building Tribal capacity to measure environmental pollutants and developing risk reduction strategies that will improve health without adversely affecting cultural practices
  3. Building tribal capacity in analytical methods used by the CTUIR and helping both the Swinomish Tribal Indian Community and the Samish Indian Nation to improve their understanding of PAH and other chemical exposures
  4. Collaborating with other SRP Centers, EPA regional offices, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, the Office of Tribal Affairs, and other stakeholders to disseminate research findings and the principles of community-based environmental health research with tribal populations that reside on contaminated lands.
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