Indigenous Peoples of North America: Environmental Exposures and Reproductive Justice

Aug 16, 2012


Background: Indigenous American communities face disproportionate health burdens and environmental health risks compared with the average North American population. These health impacts are issues of both environmental and reproductive justice.

Objectives: In this commentary, we review five indigenous communities in various stages of environmental health research and discuss the intersection of environmental health and reproductive justice issues in these communities as well as the limitations of legal recourse.

Discussion: The health disparities impacting life expectancy and reproductive capabilities in indigenous communities are due to a combination of social, economic, and environmental factors. The system of federal environmental and Indian law is insufficient to protect indigenous communities from environmental contamination. Many communities are interested in developing appropriate research partnerships in order to discern the full impact of environmental contamination and prevent further damage.

Conclusions: Continued research involving collaborative partnerships among scientific researchers, community members, and health care providers is needed to determine the impacts of this contamination and to develop approaches for remediation and policy interventions.


  • Alaska Natives
  • environmental justice
  • First Nations
  • Native Americans
  • reproductive justice

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