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Curr Environ Health Rep. 2017 Jun;4(2):130-141. doi: 10.1007/s40572-017-0140-5.

Mining and Environmental Health Disparities in Native American Communities.

Author information

1
Community Environmental Health Program, College of Pharmacy, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, 1000 Stanford Drive NE, MSC095360, Albuquerque, NM, 87131-0001, USA. jlewis@cybermesa.com.
2
Community Environmental Health Program, College of Pharmacy, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, 1000 Stanford Drive NE, MSC095360, Albuquerque, NM, 87131-0001, USA.

Abstract

PURPOSE OF REVIEW:

More than a century of hard rock mining has left a legacy of >160,000 abandoned mines in the Western USA that are home to the majority of Native American lands. This article describes how abrogation of treaty rights, ineffective policies, lack of infrastructure, and a lack of research in Native communities converge to create chronic exposure, ill-defined risks, and tribal health concerns.

RECENT FINDINGS:

Recent results show that Native Americans living near abandoned uranium mines have an increased likelihood for kidney disease and hypertension, and an increased likelihood of developing multiple chronic diseases linked to their proximity to the mine waste and activities bringing them in contact with the waste. Biomonitoring confirms higher than expected exposure to uranium and associated metals in the waste in adults, neonates, and children in these communities. These sites will not be cleaned up for many generations making it critical to understand and prioritize exposure-toxicity relationships in Native populations to appropriately allocate limited resources to protect health. Recent initiatives, in partnership with Native communities, recognize these needs and support development of tribal research capacity to ensure that research respectful of tribal culture and policies can address concerns in the future. In addition, recognition of the risks posed by these abandoned sites should inform policy change to protect community health in the future.

KEYWORDS:

Abandoned mines; Environmental health; Environmental justice; Environmental policy; Heavy metals; Native Americans

PMID:
28447316
PMCID:
PMC5429369
DOI:
10.1007/s40572-017-0140-5
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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