Indigenous Peoples of North America: Environmental Exposures and Reproductive Justice
Elizabeth Hoover,1 Katsi Cook,2 Ron Plain,3 Kathy Sanchez,4 Vi Waghiyi,5,6 Pamela Miller,6 Renee Dufault,7 Caitlin Sislin,8 and David O. Carpenter9
1Ethnic and American Studies, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA; 2Running Strong for American Indian Youth, Alexandria, Virginia, USA; 3Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada; 4Tewa Women United, Santa Cruz, New Mexico, USA; 5Native Village of Savoonga, Alaska, USA; 6Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Anchorage, Alaska, USA; 7Food Ingredient and Health Research Institute, Naalehu, Hawaii, USA; 8Women’s Earth Alliance, Berkeley, California, USA; 9Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany, Rensselaer, New York, USA
Background: Indigenous American communities face disproportionate health burdens and environmental health risks compared with the average North American population. These health impacts are issues of both environmental and reproductive justice.
Objectives: In this commentary, we review five indigenous communities in various stages of environmental health research and discuss the intersection of environmental health and reproductive justice issues in these communities as well as the limitations of legal recourse.
Discussion: The health disparities impacting life expectancy and reproductive capabilities in indigenous communities are due to a combination of social, economic, and environmental factors. The system of federal environmental and Indian law is insufficient to protect indigenous communities from environmental contamination. Many communities are interested in developing appropriate research partnerships in order to discern the full impact of environmental contamination and prevent further damage.
Conclusions: Continued research involving collaborative partnerships among scientific researchers, community members, and health care providers is needed to determine the impacts of this contamination and to develop approaches for remediation and policy interventions.
Key words: Alaska Natives, environmental justice, First Nations, Native Americans, reproductive justice.
Environ Health Perspect 120:1645–1649 (2012). http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1205422 [Online 16 August 2012]
Address correspondence to E. Hoover, American Studies Department, Ethnic Studies Program, Brown University, Box 1886, Providence, RI 02912 USA. Telephone: (401) 863-9964. Fax: (401) 863-7589. E-mail: Elizabeth_M_Hoover@brown.edu
This study was supported by Running Strong for American Indian Youth, the First Environment Collaborative.
P.M. and V.W. are engaged through Alaska Community Action on Toxics in litigation against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Teck Alaska Inc., Usibelli Coal Mine Inc., Aurora Energy Services LLC, the Alaska Railroad Corp., and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. R.P. is currently an applicant in a suit against the Ministry of the Environment, the Attorney General of Ontario, and Suncor Energy Products in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. K.S. was a litigant in a settlement with Los Alamos National Laboratories. C.S. coordinates responsive legal support for Indigenous-led environmental justice campaigns. D.O.C. has served as an expert witness in cases regarding human health impact from exposure to various environmental agents, but has never accepted personal payment beyond travel costs. None of these suits will result in financial gain for the authors.
Received 3 May 2012; Accepted 16 August 2012; Online 16 August 2012.
Recent Advance Publications
- Long Term Exposure to PM10 and NO2 in Association with Lung Volume and Airway Resistance in the MAAS Birth Cohort
- Retinal Microvascular Responses to Short-Term Changes in Particulate Air Pollution in Healthy Adults
- Short-term Associations between Fine and Coarse Particulate Matter and Hospitalizations in Southern Europe: Results from the MED-PARTICLES Project
- Perinatal Air Pollutant Exposures and Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Children of Nurses’ Health Study II Participants
- Prenatal Nitrate Intake from Drinking Water and Selected Birth Defects in Offspring of Participants in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study
- Current Perspectives on the Use of Alternative Species in Human Health and Ecological Hazard Assessments
- Instruments for Assessing Risk of Bias and Other Methodological Criteria of Published Animal Studies: A Systematic Review