Center for Native American Environmental Health Equity Research

EPA Grant Number: R836157
Center: Center for Native American Environmental Health Equity Research
Center Director: Lewis, Johnnye Lynn
Title: Center for Native American Environmental Health Equity Research
Investigators: Lewis, Johnnye Lynn , Cerrato Corrales, Jose Manuel , Gonzales, Melissa , Hudson, Laurie , MacKenzie, Debra Ann
Institution: University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
EPA Project Officer: Breville, Maggie
Project Period: July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2020
Project Amount: $1,500,000
RFA: NIH/EPA Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health


Nearly half of the Native American population of the United States lives in 13 western states where there are an estimated 161,000 abandoned hardrock mines, more than 4,000 are abandoned uranium mines. These communities have been inextricably linked to their environments for millennia. Because of their reliance on natural resources to maintain traditional diets, lifestyles, customs and languages, these tribal communities have direct and frequent contact with metal mixtures from unremediated mine sites, creating exposures through multiple pathways, including inhalation, drinking water, and ingestion of food sources either directly or indirectly contaminated by migration of the wastes. Exacerbating these exposures are disparities in infrastructure, especially drinking water supplies and unique social determinants of health (SDH) from poverty in rural and isolated locations. Together, environmental health (EH) disparities and social determinants combine to create a potential sensitivity to toxicity and disparate disease outcomes in tribal communities. Addressing these pervasive EH disparities with primary biomedical and environmental research and Native-focused community engagement is the focus of the University of New Mexico’s proposed Center for Native American Environmental Health Equity Research, or “Native EH Equity”. The partners in the center consists of three University research programs and three tribal nations – Navajo, Sioux and Crow- with plans to expand to a fourth tribal region in later years of the project. Native EH Equity extends the work in progress within each of these communities over the last two decades to fill gaps in existing knowledge for each tribe. The proposed partnership address Research Priority areas 1, 2, 3, and 5 through a strong partnership that will examine and compare mechanisms of toxicity in mining waste metal mixtures of different composition across three tribal populations. The distribution of contaminants, cultural practices, and genetic origins of the three core tribes involved provide a basis for the first steps in sorting out the health effects of metal mixtures in tribal communities. Our partnership creates the opportunity for comparison across these groups to expand our understanding of mixed-metal toxicity and our confidence in the characteristics of the exposures, and the populations, that influence the generalizability of the results. The proposed work also strives to build the research capacity, the understanding of data, and interpretation and use of biomedical results across these communities, as well as to develop a framework that characterizes the unique exposure pathways and defines health from a perspective not only reflective of tribal perceptions, but ultimately useful in informing regulatory decision- making. 

Journal Articles: 2 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other center views: All 12 publications 2 publications in selected types All 2 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Hoover J, Gonzales M, Shuey C, Barney Y, Lewis J. Elevated arsenic and uranium concentrations in unregulated water sources on the Navajo Nation, USA. Exposure and Health August 23, 2016 (12 pp.) [Epub ahead of print]. R836157 (2016)
  • Full-text: Springer-Full Text HTML
  • Abstract: Springer-Abstract
  • Other: Springer-Full Text PDF
  • Journal Article Rodriguez-Freire L, Avasarala S, Ali AS, Agnew D, Hoover JH, Artyushkova K, Latta DE, Peterson EJ, Lewis J, Crossey LJ, Brearley AJ, Cerrato JM. Post Gold King Mine spill investigation of metal stability in water and sediments of the Animas River watershed. Environmental Science & Technology 2016;50(21):11539-11548. R836157 (2016)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: ResearchGate-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: ACS Publications-Abstract
  • Other: ACS Publications-Full Text PDF
  • Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017
  • Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R836157C001 Metals and metal mixtures in DNA damage and repair
    R836157C002 Development of biomarkers of autoimmunity in 3 tribal communities exposed to mixed metal contaminants