• The Northway Wild Food And Health Project: Confronting The Legacy Of Toxic Waste Along The Alcan

      Godduhn, Anna R.; Duffy, Lawrence K. (2011)
      Northway, Alaska is a small, mostly Athabascan community with a large Formerly Used Defense Site, located near the Alaska Highway in Eastern Interior Alaska. Despite remediation in the 1990s, local residents are concerned about the contamination of wild foods. This Community Based Participatory Research project comprised two studies: the Northway Wild Food Study, to investigate contaminant levels in locally prioritized traditional foods; and the Northway Health Study, to investigate locally suspected links between historic pollution sources and health problems. The project identifies multiple pathways of exposure that were more significant in the past, including a clear water creek, whitefish, a pipeline corridor, and a public water tank. Historic contamination with petroleum, persistent organic pollutants, the ingredients of Agent Orange, and chlorinated byproducts of disinfection, respectively, is neither well documented nor quantifiable. Retrospective cohort comparisons of historic resource users to non-users found complex associations. Reported users of these resources showed a higher reported incidence of several health conditions, including cancer, thyroid-, reproductive-, and metabolic problems, and cardiac irregularities. This thesis postulates that the situation represents a case study of endocrine disruption via multiple unquantifiable and interactive pathways, including myriad unknowns that preclude the establishment of "cause and effect" relationships. Complex emerging phenomena present particularly intractable sources of uncertainty, in this case including the lifelong effects of low dose toxic exposure during development. However, community based research has the capacity to improve local and scientific understanding of the repercussions of environmental pollution in rural communities that are still grappling with the legacy of military waste.