Superfund Research Program
Community Engagement Core
The Oregon State University (OSU) Community Engagement Core (CEC) worked with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (SITC), a group that is concerned about their exposure to air toxics from nearby petrochemical refineries. Molly Kile, Ph.D., and her team completed a year-long fence line monitoring initiative that measured 130 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in 56 paired air samples that were collected by Tribal members and staff on their reservation lands. This data showed that the air quality experienced on the reservation was strongly influenced by temperature inversions, wind direction, and wildfires in the region. Of particular concern to the Tribe was the human health implications of the poorer air quality experienced during temperature inversions that trap local emissions. During inversions, the excess lifetime risk of cancer from inhalation increased 10-fold compared to normal atmospheric conditions (Kramer et al, 2020). To increase engagement with the Tribe, the team brought 16 members of the OSU SRP Center to SITC for a two-day Sense of Place tour where they met with Tribal leaders, Elders, members, and scientific staff to learn more about the Tribe. The CEC also worked with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and brought 20 tribal high school students and their chaperones to OSU where they were able to tour the university, the zebrafish facility and learn about the Systems Approach to Define Toxicity of Complex PAH Mixtures Project, and participate in a STEM-based “zombie apocalypse” scavenger hunt. Finally, the CEC submitted an application to the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) for a new module on conducting ethical human research with Tribal Nations.