Air pollution in Alaska’s North Slope and its implications for the community of Nuiqsut

Feb 1, 2019


Alaska’s North Slope is the region north of the crest of the Brooks Range and is one of the most extreme environments in which humans live. There are eight communities in Alaska’s North Slope: Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Barrow, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, and Wainwright. The community of Nuiqsut is located 136 miles southeast of Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States of America. According to the U.S. Census, there were 402 residents living in the community of Nuiqsut in 2010. Nuiqsut’s economy is based on subsistence hunting, fishing, and whaling and local knowledge encompasses comprehensive information about various aspects of the environment.

Massive oil reserves were discovered in Alaska’s North Slope in 1968.28 Following that initial discovery, oil and gas facilities have continued their expansion throughout this region. As a result of this continued expansion, air pollution is of increasing concern to residents of Nuiqsut which was first surrounded by an oil drilling unit in 2000 with a subsequent cluster of childhood leukemia and persistent asthma in the children which were reported by Nuiqsut leaders to ACAT staff in 2012. By 2018 the oil rigs had surrounded the village. The burden of the socioeconomic, environmental, and health costs of oil exploration, development, and production has fallen upon them. Considerable research has been done on the effects of oil and gas activities, but information on the cumulative effects on human health is lacking, especially in the Arctic region. Furthermore there needs to be a focus on the impacts of oil and gas activities on the health and wellbeing of individuals and their communities in the North Slope as it relates to their traditional ways of life.

In this report we will present the inherent risks that oil and gas activities have on environmental health by calling attention to the hazardous air pollutants that are released into the ecosystem on Alaska’s North Slope.


Air Quality

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