With EPA Grant, University of Tulsa Will Study Air Quality in Tribal Schools and Homes

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced this week that it has awarded The University of Tulsa a $919,988 grant in order to study different methods for improving air quality, as well as reducing the amount of asthma triggers in tribal homes and schools. The EPA is hoping that this will help to protect tribal communities.

“The EPA is pleased to be working with University of Tulsa to help find new and innovative ways to improve air quality on tribal communities,” said the group’s regional administrator, Ron Curry. “This effort gives us an opportunity to improve indoor air quality by increasing awareness of environmental health risks.”

According to the EPA, it has granted 10 tribal community-focused research projects since 2000. Previous research has helped communities to form better local policies, and have also helped alert various tribal communities as to potential dangers in their local areas. The EPA has said that air quality information for the study will be obtained from the Navajo Nation, the Nez Perce Tribe Reservation, and the Cherokee Nation.

How important is indoor air quality? The EPA consistently rates indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental risks to public health. Air pollution can negatively impact the immune system, and increase the likelihood of children developing asthma.

Many tribal nations rely heavily on natural resources so as to maintain their unique cultural identities — which food, languages, customs and architecture are a part of. The research will, ideally, indicate some of the health impacts of pollution and climate change on these nations, and help identify what can be done to promote positive change.

Related studies on tribal communities will be taking place in universities around the country. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for example, will be studying the air quality in tents, as well as the potential health impact of wood smoke exposure. These tests will help shed light on potential health risks present in remote communities.

“[This study] will help us draft a more complete profile of the air quality tribal children are exposed to throughout the day,” said Richard Shaughnessy, the founder and director for Tulsa’s Indoor Air Program.

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