EPA Funds Environmental Health Research for Tribal Communities

To identify and reduce tribal health risks associated with climate change, indoor wood smoke exposure, environmental asthma, waterborne diseases, and other unique tribal concerns, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding tribal environmental health research grants to six groups, including universities and tribes.‎

"We're working together to help tribal communities combat the threats from climate change, and reduce environmental and public health risks," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "After more than a decade of funding this research, which addresses the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities, we have important data, tools, products and knowledge available to help communities determine a path forward to take action on climate change."

Because many tribes rely on natural resources, it is essential for tribal-focused research to identify possible environmental health risks and the most efficient methods of avoiding or addressing these risks.  Over the last decade, EPA grants have helped tribes make significant progress in addressing health risks.  For example, the funding has resulted in the creation of fish advisory maps that have helped various tribal fishing communities avoid mercury and other contaminant-laden fish. The funding has also caused Washington and Oregon to revise their water-quality standards to offer greater protection.  In addition, a library of resources in the Mohawk language was created to enhance education about toxic substances and empower the community to protect the health of its citizens.

The six grants total about $5 million. The recipients are:

  • Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, Alaska -to assess, monitor, and adapt to threats to the sustainability of food and water in remote Alaska native villages
  • Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, La Conner, Wash. -to examine coastal climate impacts to traditional foods, cultural sites, and tribal community health and well-being
  • Yurok Tribe, Klamath, Calif. -to  identify, assess, and adapt to climate change impacts to Yurok water and aquatic resources, food security and tribal health
  • Little Big Horn College, Crow Agency, Mont. -to research climate change adaptation and waterborne disease prevention on the Crow Reservation
  • University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Okla. -to improve indoor air quality and reduce environmental asthma triggers in tribal homes and schools
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Mass. -to measure indoor air quality in tents as related to wood smoke exposures and identify potential health risks in remote communities in North America


Report on A Decade of Environmental Helath Research
Source: U.S. EPA