Since 1997, Alaska Community Action on Toxics has successfully advanced local, state, and international actions to protect people from harmful chemical exposures and to safeguard our air, water, and food.

Selected accomplishments

Eliminating Global Pollution in the Arctic

Capital

ACAT advocates at the steps of the Capital

  • ACAT sponsored an Arctic Indigenous delegation to travel to Geneva, Switzerland to highlight the disproportionate burden of global contaminants that northern Indigenous peoples bear helping to prompt 172 nations to eliminate the global use of nine highly dangerous chemicals under provisions of the Stockholm Convention, a United Nations Treaty. (2009)
  • ACAT organized a letter signed by 27 groups urging the FDA and the U.S. State Department to support the listing of the pesticide lindane under the Stockholm Convention, helping to prompt the U.N. to add the chemical to the global ban in 2009.
  • ACAT’s director was invited to brief Barack Obama’s Presidential Transition Team on the Stockholm Convention and the effect of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) on Indigenous peoples of the north. (2008)
  • ACAT presented findings from community-based monitoring of pesticides in the Arctic to NGO leaders from forty countries at an International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) meeting in India.  (2008)
  • Collaborated with the International Indian Treaty Council to present environmental health and human rights workshops in Sonora, Mexico to address local concerns about the effects of pesticides and to connect Indigenous peoples of the north and south; trained local leaders to conduct water and soil sampling.  (2007 – 2009)
  • ACAT prompted 86 NGOs in 18 countries to support technical comments to eliminate production and use of lindane in North America, helping to prompt the EPA to withdraw agricultural uses of lindane in the U.S. in 2006.

Addressing Military Waste in Alaska to Achieve Environmental Health and Justice

  • ACAT holds annual college-credited field courses on environmental health and field sampling methods to train village leaders to conduct their own community-based environmental health research (since 2008).
  • ACAT sponsored a delegation of leaders from St. Lawrence Island to meet with national policymakers and agency officials in to hold polluters accountable for military waste left on the island (2009). These and subsequent meetings resulted in EPA making a commitment to re-evaluate Northeast Cape as a National Priorities List (Superfund) Site and high-level officials with the Corps of Engineers and Senate offices to make site visits to St. Lawrence Island.
  • Conducted investigative research to determine locations, contaminants present, and status of clean up of formerly used defense sites in the Norton Sound Region as a basis for determining environmental field research priorities. (2006)
  • ACAT launched a community-based participatory research program in Norton Sound under a federal research grant to determine the nature and extent of contamination from military sites and inform ongoing cleanup efforts; collected a total of 164 environmental samples at locations near formerly used defense sites at Northeast Cape, Gambell, Elim, Wales and Unalakleet. (2006)
  • ACAT produced “I Will Fight Until I Melt,” a short film documenting Yup’ik elder Annie Alowa’s decades long struggle to get the military to clean up toxic waste on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska (1999).
  • ACAT responded to concerns of Delta Junction residents about contamination from the nuclear reactor at Fort Greely by publishing an investigative report. ACAT continues to provide information to assist Fort Greely workers who may have been exposed to radiation or other chemical contamination while in military or civilian service. Our assistance has provided workers with information they need to obtain medical assistance from the Veterans Administration.
  • Negotiated a settlement with the U.S. Department of Defense (establishing a national legal precedent) in 2004 that provides significant protections to water quality, fish, wildlife, and human health at Fort Richardson where the Army has been using a 2,160-acre estuarine marsh at the mouth of the Eagle River on upper Cook Inlet for bombing practice. Set up monitoring procedures. (2001-present).

Environmental Health Education

  • ACAT formed the Collaborative on Health and the Environment- Alaska (CHE-AK), a working group of the national Collaborative on Health and the Environment to raise awareness of environmental health issues and policy initiatives of importance to Alaska. (2006)
  • ACAT holds monthly CHE-AK teleconference seminars on a wide range of current environmental health science findings and policy initiatives. (since 2006)
  • ACAT sponsored three statewide environmental health and justice conferences for Native village leaders and other rural Alaskan leaders (1998, 2003, 2005).
  • ACAT brings noted scientists and environmental health experts to Alaska each year for lecture tours. Guest lecturers have included Dr. Sandra Steingraber, Dr. Pete Meyers, Dr. Tyrone Hayes, Dr. Devra Davis, Dr. Sarah Janssen, and Dr. David Carpenter. (since 1997)

Reducing Pesticide Use in Alaska

  • ACAT and ally organizations protected public lands through a legal challenge that compelled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to cease the use of herbicides on all Alaskan Wildlife Refuges and adjacent lands. (2009)
  • ACAT and partnering organizations led grassroots efforts to successfully block multiple attempts by the timber industry to conduct aerial spraying of herbicides on southeast Alaska forests (yearly 2001-2007).
  • ACAT submitted technical comments to the National Park Service documenting the deleterious effects of herbicides on fish and wildlife, prompting the NPS to prioritize the use of alternative measures to control invasive weeds (2009).
  • ACAT improved right-to-know regulations for pesticides applied for the Municipality of Anchorage, and by professional applicators on private properties and prompted similar right-to-know State legislation (2004-2005).
  • ACAT gained public support in blocking multiple attempts by the Alaska Railroad Corporation to spray herbicides along the tracks near salmon streams and drinking water sources. (1999, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008.)
  • ACAT obtained stronger pesticide right-to-know regulations from the State administration for schools and other State facilities throughout Alaska (2001).
  • ACAT partnered with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action to safeguard children and workers from exposure to pesticides at school by prompting the Anchorage School District (ASD) to adopt a least toxic pest management policy (2000). As a result, ASD eliminated almost all pesticide use and requested ACAT to lead a public committee to ensure compliance with the policy (2010).

Biomonitoring Studies

  • ACAT launched a breast milk monitoring project with villages in Alaska in 2010 to determine levels of such chemicals as PCBs and pesticides, including endosulfan.
  • ACAT collaborated with the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative on the national Mind, Disrupted project highlighting chemical exposures among leaders from the learning and developmental disability community. (2010)
  • With Commonweal, ACAT participated in an international breast milk monitoring project as part of our work on the Stockholm Convention (2009 – 2010).
  • ACAT collaborated with Physicians for Social Responsibility on the national Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care biomonitoring project and report highlighting chemical exposures among health care workers (2009).
  • ACAT worked with Coming Clean on the national Is It In Us? biomonitoring project to highlight contamination in the bodies of average Americans. (2007)
  • ACAT measured body burdens of contaminants among Inupiaq Eskimos in two villages affected by the Red Dog Mine. (2006)
  • ACAT measured body burdens of contaminants among the Yupik Eskimos of St. Lawrence Island (2002 – 2004) and published a report in the peer-reviewed journal, International Journal of Circumpolar Health in 2005.

Justice for Injured Workers:

  • ACAT researched Red Dog Mine legal cases for a chemically injured former Red Dog employee.
  • ACAT conducted research and prepared a letter to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for a Fairbanks resident whose property is near the Superfund site on Fort Wainwright, urging the state to test for contaminants, find the source of the contaminants, inform Fairbanks residents, and clean up the source of the contaminants.
  • ACAT provided research for a former worker who served in the military at Northeast Cape on St. Lawrence Island and now suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
  • ACAT was instrumental in obtaining an apology, medical assistance, and reparation for nuclear workers who were sickened or died as a result of the largest underground nuclear test in U.S. history, the Cannikin test of 1971 on Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Chain. (1996-2005).
  • ACAT continues to assist workers who were exposed to radiation during the nuclear bomb tests on Amchitka by providing information and referrals for legal and medical assistance.

Justice for Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) Workers

  • ACAT organized groups to request Congress to strengthen federal oversight of hazardous waste cleanup, and seek reparation for the injured EVOS cleanup workers (2007 to present).
  • ACAT sponsored environmental health survey of EVOS workers that demonstrated serious health effects caused by cleanup efforts (2002). Our work was important as a basis for the efforts to protect workers during the cleanup of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
  • Conducted community meetings with chemically injured EVOS cleanup workers to provide information and referrals for legal and medical assistance (2006).

Advancing  State and National Chemicals Policy Reform

  • ACAT with 17 other organizations submitted comments in support of the EPA Proposed Rule to increase public availability of the identities of the inert ingredients in pesticide products. (2010)
  • As a member of the Alaska Public Health Association, ACAT drafted a resolution “Protecting Vulnerable Populations from Exposure to Toxic Chemicals” that received unanimous support from ALPHA.
  • ACAT joined forty organizations in a sign-on letter to FDA expressing concern about the ongoing use of bisphenol A (BPA) as a food and beverage packaging additive. (2009)
  • Led successful statewide opposition to legislation that would have removed regulatory safeguards for hazardous waste incinerators, oil production facilities, mines, and asphalt plants (1998).

Reducing Waste from Health Care Facilities

  • ACAT conducted a representative survey of waste management practices of ten rural Alaska village clinics and ten regional health care facilities for the EPA. Results of ACAT’s survey informed decision-makers about ways to reduce wastes from health care facilities.
  • ACAT recruited clinics and hospitals statewide to join a national effort to use environmentally-safe methods to dispose of medical wastes (2004-2005).
  • ACAT took legal action to prompt a major incinerator in Anchorage to comply with the Clean Air Act and use autoclave rather than incineration for medical wastes (2001).

Promoting Safer Alternatives for Home and Garden

  • ACAT leads green cleaning workshops and organic gardening workshops to share information about harmful chemicals in everyday products and present safe, effective alternatives.
  • ACAT leads volunteers in maintaining an organic garden at Anchorage’s C Street Community Garden (2008, 2010) and works with students at Steller Secondary School to plant and maintain a pesticide and chemical free garden on school grounds (2002-2006; 2009, 2010)
  • ACAT Promote organic, non-toxic gardening methods and sell compost tea at stand at Anchorage Farmer’s Market and at community events throughout the summer.

ACAT’s Work Featured in Publications:

  • Fertile Ground: Women Organizing at the Intersection of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice, a report by Movement Strategy Center (2009)
  • Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health and the Promise of Green Chemistry, award-winning book by Elizabeth Grossman (Island Press, 2009)
  • Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood by Sandra Steingraber (Berkeley Trade, 2003)
  • “Tracking Toxics: Working to clean up the polluted sites of the nation’s not-so-pure Last Frontier,” article by Bill Sherwonit in the July/August 2003 issue of Orion magazine.

ACAT Annual Reports:

2010 Annual Report pdf

2010 Annual Report Appendix pdf

2009 Annual Report pdf

2008 Annual Report pdf

ACAT Publications:

ACAT has produced 13 reports for the public, a scientific journal article reporting on our body burden work at St. Lawrence Island, 2 reports for the United Nations, and a reference packet to assist health care professionals:

Reports about the activities of polluters at specific locations:

  • Amchitka Island (two reports – 1996 and 1998)
  • Fort Greely (2000)
  • St. Lawrence Island (2002)
  • Five military Superfund Sites in Alaska (2003)
  • Exxon Valdez oil spill (2003)
  • Red Dog Mine (2004)
  • Abandoned military sites in the Norton Sound region (2006)

Statewide Reports:

  • Spills by the petroleum industry (2001)
  • Dioxins (2002)
  • People’s right to know about exposures to contaminants (2002)
  • Health bulletins about Environmental reproductive justice (2007) and Diabetes (2008)
  • The International Journal of Circumpolar Health (64:4, 2005) published an article by ACAT’s research team about ACAT’s biomonitoring work at St. Lawrence Island.
  • Lindane: Pharmaceutical and Agricultural Alternatives. Report to United Nations (2009)
  • Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Arctic. Report to the United Nations (2009)
  • Environmental Health Care Toolkit and poster for health care professionals (2009)

To download our publications, visit our Publications Page!