The UNM Metal Exposure and Toxicity Assessment on Tribal Lands in the Southwest (METALS) Superfund Research Program (SRP) and Training Center will focus on risk reduction for Native Americans exposed to hazardous metals mixtures from abandoned uranium mine waste. This will be the ONLY SRP Center focused on risks to Native American communities. Specifically, UNM METALS will focus on site-specific physical/mineralogic/biogeochemical properties of the waste that alter immune function and DNA repair in tribal populations. The biomedical research proposed in UNM METALS focuses on major uncertainties in these exposure:outcome relationships, while environmental projects complement this research by exploiting characteristics that impact mobility and toxicity to develop and test novel cost-effective metals immobilization and removal strategies to reduce risks in ways compatible with tribal culture, and design risk avoidance/warning systems. Recognizing that complete remediation of these sites under CERCLA remains decades away, METALS will use multi-directional community engagement and research translation cores to develop and implement trans-generational approaches to risk communication and risk avoidance that integrate indigenous learning models (e.g. tribal ecological knowledge) and Western science. The METALS Center will integrate training of junior faculty and graduate students with multi-directional training of community members and research staff so that local knowledge of mining impacts and health problems inform air and water monitoring needs to support the environmental and biomedical research projects and build a foundation of transdisciplinary, partnered research for the next generation. METALS will utilize committed pilot funding from the UNM Cancer Center, the HSC Research Office, and our Environmental Health Signature Program to build transdisicplinary partnerships that expand our team to respond to additional health outcomes of community concern. The Center will expand ongoing, developed partnerships with three Native American communities living in close proximity to unique waste sites. The first is Laguna Pueblo living with the abandoned > 8000 acre openpit Jackpile Mine listed on the Superfund National Priorities List, and two Navajo communities living in proximity to two separate sites being addressed through CERCLA assessment as part of the USEPA Congressionally mandated Five-Year Plan to Address Uranium Contamination on the Navajo Nation: Red Water Pond Road adjacent to the North East Church Rock Mine; and Tachee-Blue Gap community living next to the Claim 28 waste site. In summary, we will work closely with communities, tribal and federal agencies to develop informed Superfund prioritization based on site-specific factors identified through our research, and develop solutions that build on site properties to immobilize and remove metals, reduce risk in ways that are holistic, predictable and sustainable, and test biological interventions to reduce toxicity.

Public Health Relevance

OVERALL - NARRATIVE UNM METALS Superfund Center will work with Native American communities to determine how site-specific properties of metal mixtures at abandoned uranium mine waste sites alter the movement of metals in the environment, and affect health through dysregulation of the immue system, and exacerbation of DNA damage. Using this understanding we will develop improved models to determine risk based on these site-specific characteristics, and work with Tribal and Federal agencies and communities to inform Superfund site prioritization; develop solutions to immobilize waste or remove toxicants from water pathways in predictable and sustainable ways; develop risk warning strategies; and test biological interventions to reduce toxicity.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Hazardous Substances Basic Research Grants Program (NIEHS) (P42)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZES1)
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Carlin, Danielle J
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University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
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Gonzales, Melissa; King, Elanda; Bobelu, Jeanette et al. (2018) Perspectives on Biological Monitoring in Environmental Health Research: A Focus Group Study in a Native American Community. Int J Environ Res Public Health 15:
Hoover, Joseph H; Coker, Eric; Barney, Yolanda et al. (2018) Spatial clustering of metal and metalloid mixtures in unregulated water sources on the Navajo Nation - Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, USA. Sci Total Environ 633:1667-1678
Zychowski, Katherine E; Kodali, Vamsi; Harmon, Molly et al. (2018) Respirable Uranyl-Vanadate-Containing Particulate Matter Derived From a Legacy Uranium Mine Site Exhibits Potentiated Cardiopulmonary Toxicity. Toxicol Sci 164:101-114
Bolt, Alicia M; Medina, Sebastian; Lauer, Fredine T et al. (2018) Minimal uranium accumulation in lymphoid tissues following an oral 60-day uranyl acetate exposure in male and female C57BL/6J mice. PLoS One 13:e0205211
Harmon, Molly E; Lewis, Johnnye; Miller, Curtis et al. (2018) Arsenic association with circulating oxidized low-density lipoprotein in a Native American community. J Toxicol Environ Health A 81:535-548
Avasarala, Sumant; Lichtner, Peter C; Ali, Abdul-Mehdi S et al. (2017) Reactive Transport of U and V from Abandoned Uranium Mine Wastes. Environ Sci Technol 51:12385-12393