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Alaska Activities

Cape Romanzof, Alaska

The U.S. Air Force 611th Engineering Squadron, Elemendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage requested assistance from ATSDR to review a contaminant migration study written by a team from Purdue University. Four adjacent villages received funding from the Air Force to conduct environmental sampling in the area. The data was provided to Purdue University for analysis. The four villages (Chevak, Scammon Bay, Hooper Bay and a seasonal fish camp, Paimiut) are located adjacent to the long range radar station (LRRS) in Southwest Alaska along the Bering Sea. There are several drainages from the site to different subsistence foods gathering areas located in two different bays. The Air Force has been involved in renovating the LRRS and remediating contaminated soils and building materials. Little has been done to determine migration offsite, except for the village efforts. A review of the study is due in November 2009. A petition from the villages is expected in the near future to address other health concerns related to the LRRS contamination.

Environmental Public Health Activities in Alaska

The National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) Health Studies Branch (HSB) provided FY09 funds to develop infrastructure and conduct environmental public health activities in Alaska by partnering with CDC’s Arctic Investigations Program (AIP). The partnership will focus initially on water-related projects identified and developed collaboratively by the two organizations. In collaboration with AIP staff, HSB environmental epidemiologists will provide expertise, including designing studies, developing survey instruments, and conducting field work. Staff at AIP will provide regional expertise; facilitate entree into Alaska Native villages; and assist with developing the protocol, survey instruments and other study documentation, and provide research assistance in the field. The first years’ activities will promote the safe water agenda among potential local, state, and other federal partners working in Alaska; enhance the environmental health component of this agenda; and to coordinate work across programs to ensure optimal use of resources. One of the first projects to be developed collaboratively will focus on evaluating drinking water sources, storage, and use in rural Alaska villages. The objectives of this study are to characterize water quality in various surface drinking water sources and other unregulated water sources in four rural Alaska villages; to characterize drinking water quality in homes; and to evaluate household water source, use, storage and handling practices to assess public health risks and develop appropriate public health education messages. The protocol for this project is in development.

Maternal Organics Monitoring Study (MOMS) Enrollment Completed in Alaska

The National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) Health Studies Branch (HSB) has completed enrollment into a study of human exposure to environmental pollutants among Alaska native people. The Maternal Organics Monitoring Study (MOMS) collected serum and urine samples from Alaska Native mothers during one pre-natal visit, and umbilical cord blood samples at delivery. Pregnant women were enrolled at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital (YKDRH) in Bethel in collaboration with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation Delta, and in communities in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands in collaboration with the Aleutian-Pribilof Island Association. The initial enrollment phase included women in Barrow, in cooperation with the North Slope Regional Corporation. Samples have been analyzed for persistent organic pollutants, nonpersistent pesticides, and trace metals, as well as for various nutritional markers. Statistical analysis of medical chart abstraction data and laboratory data is underway.

Study of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Alaska Native Women

The National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) Health Studies Branch (HSB) recently completed a study to determine whether there are differences in serum levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) measured in Alaska Native women with and without breast cancer. During 1999-2002, 203 Alaska Native and American Indian women who presented to the Alaska Native Medical Center for breast biopsy were enrolled into the study. Information about known breast cancer risk factors (e.g., family history, pregnancy history) and dietary history was collected via questionnaire. Biologic samples including serum, urine, and adipose tissue, were collected and analyzed for POPs and phthalates. Breast cancer and tumor hormone receptor status were confirmed by pathology. There were no significant differences in baseline serum POP levels between case and control women. Geometric mean POP levels were uniformly lower in women with estrogen/progesterone-positive tumors than in women with estrogen/progesterone-negative tumors. Serum concentrations of POPs at the time of diagnosis do not appear to be a risk factor for breast cancer in Alaska Native women. A manuscript describing the study is in preparation.

Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Preventing Water Related Disease Among Alaska Natives Through Enhanced Education

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is conducting a water-quality project to develop, pilot, evaluate, and disseminate a water-use promotion program to reduce occurrence of sanitation-related waterborne diseases among Alaska Natives in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region.

Health Consultations for the Port Heiden Tribe

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC) and Division of Regional Operations (DRO) Region 10 office is assisting the Village of Port Heiden with several of their environmental health concerns. DHAC is preparing several health consultations to evaluate specific community concerns associated with past activities at the Port Heiden site and the State of Alaska is addressing several other environmental health issues that are not directly associated with the Port Heiden site.

The Port Heiden site comprises two former military installations—Fort Morrow, a formerly used defense site (FUDS) and Port Heiden Radio Relay Station (RRS), formerly a White Alice Communications System (WACS) site. In March 2008, a petition from the Native Council of Port Heiden was received by DHAC. Discussion and phone conferences on military and non-military environmental concerns led to DHAC accepting the petition on June 18, 2008. DHAC and DRO staff met with the village council, village elders and those tribal members and families that wanted to talk with us about their concerns during a November 4-8, 2008 site visit to the village and known historical waste site locations. DHAC has met or obtained data and information from Air Force and Army representatives. A draft report outlining some of the available data was provided to the tribe in November of 2008 in an effort to educate the tribe about the products and services of ATSDR and to involve the tribe in providing community-specific practices that might help in determining the frequency and degree of exposures to contaminants. Exposure assessments are underway.

Health Consultation for Cook Inlet Region in Alaska

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DHAC) and Division of Regional Operations (DRO) Region 10 office worked with representatives of the Village of Port Graham to conduct an evaluation of native foods from Cook Inlet. The study was conducted in correlation with oil drilling permits that would allow the extension of an area in which oil drill platforms could be built. This comprehensive evaluation consisted of a review of metals, pesticides, and other chemicals detected in salmon and other fish, invertebrates, marine animals, and plants. The Final Health Consultation, Evaluation of Seafood and Plant Data Collected from Cook Inlet near the Native Villages of Port Graham, Nanwalek, Seldovia, and Tyonek, Alaska, was released on July 29, 2009. Through this joint effort, DHAC and DRO were able to work cooperatively with Native Alaskans to guide them through the complex science required to evaluate chemicals in native foods.

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