Researchers from Indiana University will study how toxic pollutants from decommissioned military facilities are affecting members of a remote community of indigenous people in Alaska.
Amina Salamova, associate scientist at IU’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and a team of researchers were awarded a $2.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to find out what risks the indigenous Yupik people face from pollutants released from two former Air Force bases near the U.S.-Russia border.
The bases were built on St. Lawrence Island during the Cold War and were shuttered decades ago, but local residents said clean up-efforts were incomplete.
Researchers from IU and other universities previously found high levels of toxic PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and other organic contaminants in the land and animal life.
Blood tests of Yupik residents found levels of PCBs up to 10 times higher than in other Americans.
"We know that some of the contamination can be attributed to things like hazardous materials and construction debris from the former military sites, but we also know that Arctic communities are disproportionately impacted by long-range transport of persistent organic pollutants as they travel through the air and ocean currents," Salamova told IU. "That's one reason why focusing on the chemical pathways is so important."
The scientists will collect air, water and food samples along with additional blood from people directly exposed to contaminants.