Cumulative Exposures

Cumulative Exposures (CE) is a collaborative, community-led participatory environmental history research project designed to forward public understanding of communities and government agency efforts and struggles to address environmental health challenges that are “cumulative.” While agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have traditionally divided their oversight and enforcement by media—air, water, chemical—often the most aggrieved communities confront devastating combinations of long-acting environmental, social, and other threats that undermine their health and well-being. Ever since the definition of cumulative impact assessment appeared in the California Environmental Quality Act in 1970, the scientific understanding of these impacts has grown, as has public advocacy for agencies to take them more seriously. In 2022, the EPA Office of Research and Development, declaring them a significant research focus, offered this sweeping definition for them: “Cumulative impacts refer to the total burden—positive, neutral, or negative—from chemical and non-chemical stressors and their interactions that affect the health, well-being, and quality of life of an individual, community, or population at a given point in time or over a period of time.”


Working in partnership with Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) and Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA), the EDGI team is co-developing interviews, FOIA requests, accessible data, and community resources to address cumulative exposures that result in cumulative impacts in Alaska, Texas, and beyond. A key aim is to understand better and make accessible documents as to why the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies have had such trouble acknowledging, addressing, and remedying the compound and additive character of environmental and socioeconomic peril in many disadvantaged communities. We also seek to develop methods and environmental health resources together for action-oriented research. The project builds on the foundation established by ACAT, CIDA, and others in the fight against environmental injustice in the United States.

Project funding includes fiscal support from an NSF/STS Project Grant.

Project Team:
Chris Sellers (PI, SBU), Mark Chambers (co-PI, SBU), Jessica Varner (co-PI, EDGI), and Gretchen Gehrke (Project-Lead, EDGI), ACAT (Alaska Community Action on Toxics), and CIDA (Community In-Power and Development Association).

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