Tribal Environmental Health Research
The Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants program supports research that focuses on the assessment and reduction of risk in susceptible populations. Tribal populations have been tied inextricably to their environments for millennia. Because of their reliance on natural resources to maintain traditional diets, lifeways, customs and languages, there is a unique need for tribal-focused research to identify the impacts of pollution, dietary exposures, cumulative risks and climate changes, as well as to inform decisions to reduce health risks in these areas.
Tribal Environmental Health Research supports research to better understand the health effects of environmental contaminants on tribal populations. The STAR grants program has awarded funding in various research areas that explore such environmental risks, particularly cumulative chemical exposure and global climate change affecting tribes.
Learn About Tribal Environmental Health
- Why focus research on Tribal Environmental Health Research?
Many traditional North American Native Tribal Populations maintain intricate and ecologically interdependent relationships with the natural environment. These relationships developed over centuries have only relatively recently been impacted by industrial chemical pollution; the availability of refined, processed foods; and social and political isolation, which are threatening the health, wellness, and way of life of Tribal communities in the US.
Tribal institutions have recently increased emphasis on encouraging traditional diets, religious practices, and customs to restore and protect the health and knowledge base of Tribal communities. This increased emphasis on traditional, healthy ways of life for American Native communities requires that the health and environmental impacts of pollution, dietary exposure, cumulative risk, and climate change be identified to allow lifestyle adjustments and environmental actions to be taken to reduce health risks.
Local fish advisories, contaminated sites, pesticide drift, bioaccumulation and rights of access issues all impact exposures from subsistence lifestyles and diets. Future research must identify the cumulative risks associated with these exposures and identify others. These research opportunities will dovetail with other existing EPA Community Based Risk Assessment programs including STAR Environment, Health and Society (EHS) research.
- What were the past STAR Tribal Environmental Health Research Goals?
EPA STAR tribal environmental health research has focussed on identifying and quantifying cumulative risk, determining the impacts of climate change, and identifying dietary exposure risks of traditional subsistence diets.
- What are the future STAR Tribal Environmental Health Research Goals?
Future STAR Tribal research will explore new strategies, methods, and tools for assessing environmental health exposure among Tribal populations as well as identify other research opportunities for advancing health protection while maintaining traditional Tribal ways of life.
- What related efforts does EPA have going on?
Community-Based Grant Programs: EPA ran a community action program through 2011 called Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE). It was a competitive grant program that offered an innovative way for a community to organize and take action to reduce toxic pollution in its local environment.
- Community-Based Risk Assessment Research
In 2009 EPA issued a request for research proposals on addressing limitations on the ability to conduct cumulative risk assessments. This RFA focused on the development of statistical and other analytical techniques that will enable the analysis of disparate types of data, and the evaluation of the combined effects of non-chemical and chemical stressors.
- What are some related EPA cumulative community risk assessment publications?
Reports: In 2003, EPA released a report illustrating a new Framework for Cumulative Risk Assessment. This document is the first step in a long-term effort to develop cumulative risk assessment guidance. It discusses the how non-chemical stressors and vulnerability are important in the risk assessment process. The National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC) also issued a report on environmental justice and cumulative risks/impacts.
In 2008, EPA released a follow-up report on cumulative risk assessment - Concepts, Methods and Data Sources for Cumulative Health Risk Assessment of Multiple Chemicals, Exposures and Effects: A Resource Document. This report is a resource document for identifying specific elements of approaches for implementing cumulative risk assessments.
In 1999, EPA released a report on a new Framework for Community-Based Environmental Protection. This report illustrated that "today's environmental problems cannot be solved through traditional command-and-control approaches that address only air or water or solid waste in isolation." In addition, the report presented a place-based, holistic, collaborative process which includes stakeholder collaboration and consideration of both environmental protection along with human social needs.
- Where can I find additional resources?