Akwesasne Nation Peoples and Environmental Health and Justice
Numerous studies on environmental pollution and exposure among Native American peoples have been undertaken with the Akwesasne people. The Akwesasne Mohawks reside in upper eastern New York State and the southern parts of the Canadian Provinces of Quebec and Ontario along the St. Lawrence, St. Regis, and Raquette Rivers. Though divided by international borders, the Akwesasne consider themselves a single community of approximately 12,000 members. Many of these studies have been conducted with the cooperation of the Akwesasne people through the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment.
The Akwesasne are especially impacted by PCB pollution (for information on PCBs see EPA.gov) and pesticide exposure. The concentration of industries that produced PCBs and PCB contaminated pollutants near the Akwesasne nation contributes to elevated PCB exposure among the Akwesasne ( Manning 2005). PCB exposure rates are higher among the Akwesasne than the general population (Haase et al. 2009), and especially among Akwesasne women and infants (Fitzgerald et al. 1998, 2004; Hwang, Fitzgerald, and Bush 1996). PCB exposure is commonly associated with the food chain and Native diets which depend on local wildlife (Ashpole, Bishop, and Brooks 1996; De de Solla et al. 2000; Bishop et al. 1996; Fitzgerald et al. 1996, 1999, 2005) and occupational exposure (Fitzgerald et al., 2007).
PCBs are classified as probable carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as reasonably likely carcinogens by the National Toxicological Program. They have been linked to cancers of the liver, gall bladder, gastrointestinal tract, brain, and possibly breasts and melanomas (Johnson et al. 1999). Other effects include those for children of pregnant women. Effects include neurological and motor skill deficiencies, low IQ, poor short short-term memory, low birth weight, and reduced head size (Jacobson and Jacobson 1996). PCBs act as hormone mimics and disrupt the normal functioning of the hormonal system, including the thyroid, and impair immune system functions (Schell et al. 2003), and have been related to coronary heart disease (Sergeev and Carpenter 2005).
Organochlorine pesticide exposure is widespread among the Akwesasne. Exposure has been related to pancreatic cancer; non-Hodgkins lymphoma; breast cancer; thyroid disruption; preterm births; neurological effects; and memory, attention, and verbal skills deficits in children (Garabrant et al. 1992; Cantor et al. 1992; Chevrier et al. 2008; Cohn et al. 2007; Jurewicz and Hanke 2008; Korrick and Sagiv 2008; Longnecker et al. 2001; Rathore et al. 2002).
Research has examined the effects of persistent organic pollutants on the Akwesasne (DeCaprio et al. 2005; Kinney et al. 1997) and include the following: evidence of an association between PCB exposure and elevated anti-thyroid levels (TPOAb) in young Akwesasne adults and in breast feedbreast-fed youth and infants (Schell et al. 2009); a relationship between PCBs and serum triglycerides and cholesterol levels among Akwesasne adults (Goncharov et al. 2008); an effect between PCB exposure and cognative function among Akwesasne adolescents (Newman et al., 2006, 2009); PCBs and age of first menstruation (Denham et al. 2005; Schell and Gallo 2010); and PCB exposure and serum testosterone levels (Goncharov et al. 2009), diabetes (Codru et al. 2007), and thyroid disease (Sukdolov et al. 2000; Schell et al. 2004).
Ashpole, S., C. Bishop, and R. Brooks. 2004. Contaminant Residues in Snapping Turtle (Chelydra S. Serpentina) Eggs from the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin (1999 to 2000). Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 47: 240–52.
Bishop, C., P. Ng, K. Pettit, S. Kennedy, J. Stegeman, R. Norstrom, and R. Brooks. 1996. Environmental Contamination and Developmental Abnormalities in Eggs and Hatchlings of the Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra Serpentina Serpentina) from the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River Basin (1989-1991). Environmental Pollution 101: 143–56.
Cantor, Kenneth, Aaron Blair, George Everett, Robert Gibson, Leon Burmeister, Linda Brown, Leonard Schuman, and Fred Dick. 1992. Pesticides and Other Agricultural Risk Factors for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma among Men in Iowa and Minnesota. Cancer Research 52: 2447–55.
Chevrier, Jonathan, Brenda Eskenazi, Nina Holland, Asa Bradman, and Dana Barr. 2008. Effects of Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Organochlorine Pesticides on Thyroid Function during Pregnancy. American Journal of Epidemiology 168: 298–310.
Codru, Neculai, Maria Schymura, Serban Negoita, Robert Rej, and David Carpenter. 2007. Diabetes in Relation to Serum Levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Chlorinated Pesticides in Adult Native Americans. Environmental Health Perspectives 115: 1442–47.
Cohn, Barbara, Mary Wolff, Piera Cirillo, and Robert Sholtz. 2007. DDT and Breast Cancer in Young Women. Environmental Health Perspectives 115: 1410–14.
DeCaprio, Anthony, Glenn Johnson, Alice Tarbell, David Carpenter, Jeffrey Chiarenzelli, Gayle Morse, Azara Santiago-Rivera, and Maria J. Schymura. 2005. Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Exposure Assessment by Multivariate Statistical Analysis of Serum Congener Profiles in an Adult Native American Population. Environmental Research 98: 284–302.
Denham, Melinda, Lawrence Schell, Glenn Deane, Mia Gallo, Julia Ravenscroft, and, Anthony DeCaprio. 2005. Relationship of Lead, Mercury, Mirex, DDE, HCB, and PCBs to Age at Menarche among Akwesasne Mohawk Girls. Pediatrics 115: 125–34.
de Solla, S., C. Bishop, H. Lickers, and K. Jock. 2000. Organochlorine Pesticides, PCBs, Dibenzodioxin, and Furan Concentrations in Common Snapping Turtle Eggs (Chelydra Serpentina Serpentina) in Akwesasne, Mohawk Territory, Ontario, Canada. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 40: 410–17.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Syni-An Hwang, Kelley Brix, Brian Bush, and Priscilla Worswick. 1995. Fish PCB Concentrations and Consumption Patterns among Mohawk Women at Akwesasne. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology 5: 1–19.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Syni-An Hwang, Brian Bush, Katsi Cook, and Priscilla Worswick. 1998. Fish Consumption and Breast Milk PCB Concentrations among Mohawk Women at Akwesasne.”American Journal of Epidemiology 148: 164–72.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Syni-An Hwang, George Lambert, Marta Gomez, and Alice Tarbell. 2005. PCB Exposure and in Vivo CYP1A2 Activity among Native Americans. Environmental Health Perspectives 113: 272–7.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Kelley Brix, Debra Deres, Syni-An Hwang, Brian Bush, George Lambert, and Alice Tarbell. 1996. Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) and Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene (DDE) Exposure among Native American Men from Contaminated Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife. Toxicology and Industrial Health 12: 361–68.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Syni-An Hwang, Marta Gomez, Brian Bush, Bao-Zhu Yang, ans Alice Tarbell. 1999. Local Fish Consumption and Serum PCB Concentrations among Mohawk Men at Akwesasne. Environmental Research 80: s97–s103.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Syni-An Hwang, Marta Gomez, Brian Bush, Bao-Zhu Yang, and Alice Tarbell. 2007. Environmental and Occupational Exposures and Serum PCB Concentrations and Patterns among Mohawk Men at Akwesasne. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology 17: 269–78.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Syni-An Hwang, Karyn Langguth, Michael Cayo, Bao-Zhu Yang, Brian Bush, Priscilla Worswick, and Trudy Lauzon. 2001. The Association between Local Fish Consumption and DDE, Mirex, and HCB Concentrations in the Breast Milk of Mohawk Women at Akwesasne. Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology 11: 381–88.
Fitzgerald, Edward, Syni-An Hwang, Karyn Langguth, Michael Cayo, Bao-Zhu Yang, Brian Bush, Priscilla Worswick, and Trudy Lauzon . 2004. Fish Consumption and Other Environmental Exposures and Their Associations with Serum PCB Concentrations among Mohawk Women at Akwesasne. Environmental Research 94: 160–70.
Garabrant, David, Janetta Held, Bryan Langholz, John Peters, and Thomas Mack. 1992. DDT and Related Compounds and Risk of Pancreatic Cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 84: 764–71.
Goncharov, Alexey, Richard Haase, Azara Santiago-Rivera, Gayle Morse, Robert McCaffrey, Robert Rej, and David Carpenter. 2008. High Serum PCBs are Associated with Elevation of Serum Lipids and Cardiovascular Disease in a Native American Population. Environmental Research 106: 226–39.
Goncharov, Alexey, Robert Rej, Serban Negoita, Maria Schymura, Azara Santiago-Rivera, Gayle Morse, the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, and David Carpenter. 2009. Lower Serum Testosterone Associated with Elevated Polychlorinated Biphenyl Concentrations in Native American Men. Environmental Health Perspectives 117: 1454–60.
Haase, Richard, Robert McCaffrey, Azara Santiago-Rivera, Gayle Morse, and Alice Tarbell. 2009. Evidence of an Age-Related Threshold Effect of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) on Neuropsychological Functioning in a Native American Population. Environmental Research 109: 73–85.
Hwang, Syni-an, Edward Fitzgerald, and Brian Bush. 1996. Exposure to PCB’s from Hazardous Waste among Mohawk Women and Infants at Akwesasne. Technology Journal of the Franklin Institute 333A: 17–23.
Jacobson, Joseph, and Sandra Jacobson. 1996. Intellectual Impairment in Children Exposed to Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Utero. New England Journal of Medicine 335: 783–89.
Johnson, Barry, Heraline Hicks, William Cibulas, Obaid Faroon, Annette Ashizawa, and Christopher De Rosa. 1999. Public Health Implications of Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/techguidance/pcb99.cfm [accessed February, 7 2014].
Jurewicz, Joanna, and Woiciech Hanke. 2008. Prenatal and Childhood Exposure to Pesticides and Neurobehavioral development: Review of Epidemiological Studies. International Journal of Occupational Medical and Environmental Health 21: 121–32.
Kinney, Andrea, Edward Fitzgerald, Synian Hwang , Brian Bush, and Alice Tarbell. 1997. Human Exposure to PCBs: Modeling and Assessment of Environmental Concentrations on the Akwesasne Reservation. Drug Chemistry and Toxicology 20: 313–28.
Korrick, Susan, and Sharon Sagiv. 2008. Polychlorinated Biphenyls, Organochlorine Pesticides and Neurodevelopment. Current Opinion in Pediatrics 20: 198–204.
Longnecker, Matthew, Mark Klebanoff, Haibo Zhou, and John Brock. 2001. Association between Maternal Serum Concentration of the DDT Metabolite DDE and Preterm and Small-for-Gestational-age Babies at Birth. The Lancet 358: 110–114.
Manning, Jennifer. 2005. PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) in New York’s Hudson River. http://environmentalchemistry.com/yogi/environmental/200510hudsonriverpcbs.html [accessed February 7 2014].
Newman, Joan, Amy Aucompaugh, Lawrence Schell, Melinda Denham, Anthony DeCaprio, Mia Gallo, Julia Ravenscroft, Chin-Cheng Kao, Mary Ellen Rougas Hannover, Dawn David, Agnes Jacobs, Alice Tarbell, Priscilla Worswick, and Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment. 2006. PCBs and Cognitive Functioning of Mohawk Adolescents. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 28: 439– 45.
Newman, Joan, Mia Gallo, Lawrence Schell, Anthony DeCaprio, Melinda Denham, Glenn Deane, and the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment. 2009. Analysis of PCB Congeners Related to Cognitive Functioning in Adolescents. Neurotoxicology 30: 686–96.
Rathore, Minakshi, Pradeep Bhatnagar, D. Mathur, and G. Saxena. 2002. Burden of Organochlorine Pesticides in Blood and its Effect on Thyroid Hormones in Women. The Science of the Total Environment 295: 207–15.
Schell, Lawrence, and Mia Gallo. 2010. Relationships of Putative Endocrine Distruptors to Human Sexual Maturation and Thyroid Activity in Youth. Physiology and Behavior 99: 246–53.
Schell, Lawrence, Mia Gallo, Julia Ravenscroft, and Anthony DeCaprio. 2009. Persistent Organic Pollutants and Anti-Thyroid Peroxidase Levels in Akwesasne Mohawk Young Adults. Environmental Research 109: 86–92.
Schell, Lawrence, Mia Gallo, Anthony DeCaprio, Lech Hubicki, Melinda Denham, Julia Ravenscroft, and The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment. 2004. Thyroid Function in Relation to Burden of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s), p,p’-DDE, HCB, Mirex, and Lead among Akwesasne Mohawk Youth: A Preliminary Study. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology 18: 91–99.
Schell, Lawrence, Lech Hubicki, Anthony DeCaprio, Mia Gallo, Julia Ravenscroft, Alice Tarbell, Agnes Jacobs, Dawn David, Priscilla Worswick, and The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment. 2003. Organochlorines, Lead, and Mercury in Akwesasne Mohawk Youth. Environmental Health Perspective 111: 954–61.
Sergeev, Alexander, and David Carpenter. 2005. Hospitalization Rates for Coronary Heart Disease in Relation to Residence Near Areas Contaminated with Persistent Organic Pollutants and Other Pollutants. Environmental Health Perspectives 113: 756–61.
Sukdolova, V., S. Negoita, L. Hubicki, A. DeCaprio, and D. Carpenter. 2000. The Assessment of Risk to Acquired Hypothyroidism from Exposure to PCBs: A Study among Akwesasne Mohawk Women. Central European Journal of Public Health 8:167–68.