Tribal-University Evaluation of Chemical Exposures to Improve Community Health


The Community Engagement Core (CEC) builds scientific capacity in Tribal communities and cultural capacity within the research community. We are improving risk assessment models by accounting for tribal land-use scenarios and unique exposure pathways. By translating this knowledge into effective and appropriate risk reduction strategies, we will reduce environmental disparities and improve the health of Pacific Northwest Tribes.

Current Activities
  • Indigenous Risk Assessment (video produced in collaboration with Catherine O'Neill, Seattle University School of Law)
  • Build tribal capacity in analytical methods to improve understanding of PAH and other chemical exposures.
  • Collaborate with other stakeholders to disseminate our research findings and the principles of community-based environmental health research with tribal populations that reside on contaminated lands.
  • Meet on annual basis with interdisciplinary advisory group who will provide overall guidance to project.
Major Accomplishments in 2016
  • Installed, with Project 5, SRP Trainees and Swinomish Air Program personnel, two high-volume air samplers to collect particulate matter and PAHs, on the Swinomish Reservation.
  • Trained Swinomish Air Program personnel and Community Environmental Health interns to collect filters, monitor high-volume air samplers, log data and return filters for analysis. Training included a short training video for use by Swinomish employees.
  • In collaboration with Project 4, initiated a personal air sampling study to evaluate exposure to PAHs, using the passive wristband sampler. 
  • Working with the Research Translation Core, returned personal air sampling results back to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and individual participants during a community meeting.
  • Through a collaboration with Project 4, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Samish Indian Nation, collected butter clams (subsistence food) from several beaches used for foraging to evaluate PAH concentrations.
Past Activities and Major Accomplishments
  • Addressed CTUIR concerns regarding their environmental exposures, built Tribal capacity to measure environmental pollutants, and developed risk reduction strategies that improved health without adversely affecting cultural practices.
  • Co-organized an event with Project 4 and Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program: Response, Recovery, and Resilience to Oil Spills and Environmental Disasters: Engaging Experts and Communities - A Symposium and Workshop for Community Stakeholders, Researchers and Policymakers, January 2013 in Baton Rouge, LA.
  • Featured PAH exposures during traditional smoking of salmon with the CTUIR research in the NIEHS publication, Celebrating 25 Years of the Superfund Research Program.
  • Conducted a joint research study with the CTUIR Department of Science and Engineering to evaluate exposure to PAHs from consumption of traditionally smoked salmon
  • Co-authored manuscripts on the analytic methods used to evaluate PAH exposures following consumption of traditionally smoked salmon, and the resultant data dissemination techniques used.
  • Engaged 27 Tribal members in three 90-minute focus group sessions to elicit feedback about tribal indicators of health, environmental health concerns, and the importance of smoked food as a cultural tradition. The findings were published in Environmental Justice.
  • Installed (with Project 5 and CTUIR personnel) ambient PAH monitors on the CTUIR Reservation.
  • Trained a Tribal Air Quality Technician to collect PAH filters; transferred responsibility for air sampling technology for gas- and particle-phase PAHs to CTUIR.
  • Facilitated collection of personal air sampling data during traditional smoking of salmon, the first study of its kind conducted with tribal members.
  • Collected salmon samples in two types of structures with two different woods. Core D analyzed samples and Core C analyzed statistics; concentrations of PAHs in traditional smoked foods exceed concentrations of PAHs in commercial salmon by factors of 40-400.
  • Sponsored a Tribal Research Symposium in 2010 with focus on Tribal legal issues, research ethics, concepts in indigenous and western science, and integration of socio-cultural health indicators in Tribal risk research.
  • Developed a Material and Data Sharing Agreement, published it in EHP, distributed it to regional EPA Tribal Liaisons and regional Indian Health Service, and posted on PEPH Resource Center for access by other SRPs.
  • Produced training videos to demonstrate how to use personal air samplers in collaboration with Tribal members.