U of S Study into Effects of Landfill Practices on Environmental Health in SK First Nations Communities
Posted February 04, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 4, 2005 2005-02-06-ME
Study into Effects of Landfill Practices on Environmental Health
in SK First Nations Communities
University of Saskatchewan toxicologist Lalita Bharadwaj and two other
Saskatchewan researchers have been awarded $185,000 to study the effects of
landfill practices on the environmental health of some of Saskatchewan's
First Nations communities.
"First Nations groups are very worried about contaminants from landfills
leaching into the groundwater in their communities," says Bharadwaj,
assistant professor with the U of S Institute of Agricultural Rural and
"This project will fulfil an important role in providing information to the
First Nations communities on the current situation of landfills so that
groups can develop appropriate waste disposal management policies and
treatment programs for their areas," she says. "The results will enable them
to assess their communities' needs and apply for federal funding to create
and maintain safe, healthy environments."
The community-based participatory research project is being funded primarily
by the Assembly of First Nations/Health Canada's National First Nations
Environmental Contaminants Program which is contributing $166,095.
The Indigenous Peoples' Health Research Centre (IPHRC), a joint project of
First Nations University of Canada, the University of Regina and the U of S,
provided a developmental grant of $10,000. IPHRC is funded through the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Saskatchewan Health Research
Foundation. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is supplying an additional
Four First Nations communities are involved - Mistawasis, Muskeg Lake,
Whitecap Dakota and Muskoday. Representatives from these communities,
including students and elders, are assisting in all aspects of the research
and will take responsibility for dissemination of the results when the
project is completed in August 2005.
Currently, only two of these communities have proper clay-capped,
decommissioned landfills, Bharadwaj says. In the other communities, disposal
of solid waste products is not regulated. Landfills are often located next
to community water supplies and what is not dumped in an open pit is buried
Bharadwaj is studying the effects of the leachate chemicals on human DNA and
is particularly interested in the effects on human cells of prolonged
exposure to low-level toxins. Hydrogeologist Ian Judd-Henrey, a senior
research scientist with the Saskatchewan Research Council, is studying water
and soil samples from five disposal sites to determine the levels of
hazardous chemicals in the areas. Suzanne Nilson, associate professor of
biology at the First Nations University of Canada, is identifying the types
of bacteria growing in the samples.
Initiated by the Saskatoon Tribal Council Health and Family Services Inc.
which also carried out the preliminary chemical sampling, it is one of the
first multi-disciplinary research projects that adheres to the First
Nations' principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP).
These principles allow First Nations communities to control any
research-based information collected from them. Saskatoon Tribal Council
representatives Ceal Tournier and Laura Parenteau hope their efforts to
liaise between the academic researchers and the communities will create a
model for future OCAP-centred projects.
To better understand the effects of landfill practices over the long-term,
part of the project involved interviewing community members knowledgeable
about traditional methods of waste disposal and sites used for this purpose
in the past.
Encouraging First Nations students to enrol in environmental and health
sciences programs at university is another aim of the project so high school
students from all four groups have also been involved. In December, three
students from each area participated in a hands-on workshop designed to
introduce them to environmental health issues and the methods used in
Elders from the communities took a leading role in the workshop to emphasize
the importance of their knowledge in environmental science. The 12 Grade 9,
10 and 11 students will give presentations about the workshop to their
Several post-secondary students are involved in the project. U of S graduate
students Claire McGuigan and Patrina Gunness are working with Bharadwaj on
the toxicology aspects. Former U of S veterinary medicine student Megan
Johnston has been assisting with Bharadwaj's cell research and collection of
soil and water samples. Three First Nations University of Canada students
were part of the interviewing stage, another is working on the microbial
assessments, and a Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology
student will begin working on the DNA assessments in February.
Adnan Ali, assistant professor in the department of biological sciences at
the University of Windsor, is performing some of the microarray analysis
(gene expression profiling) for the project.
For more information, please contact:
Department of Medicine
Institute of Agricultural Rural and Environmental Health
College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan