A State-of-the-Art Review of Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Pollution

Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares*, María Garteizgogeascoa, Niladri Basu, Eduardo Sonnewend Brondizio, Mar Cabeza, Joan Martínez-Alier, Pamela McElwee, Victoria Reyes-García

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Indigenous peoples (IPs) worldwide are confronted by the increasing threat of pollution. Based on a comprehensive review of the literature (n = 686 studies), we present the current state of knowledge on: 1) the exposure and vulnerability of IPs to pollution; 2) the environmental, health, and cultural impacts of pollution upon IPs; and 3) IPs' contributions to prevent, control, limit, and abate pollution from local to global scales. Indigenous peoples experience large burdens of environmental pollution linked to the expansion of commodity frontiers and industrial development, including agricultural, mining, and extractive industries, as well as urban growth, waste dumping, and infrastructure and energy development. Nevertheless, IPs are contributing to limit pollution in different ways, including through environmental monitoring and global policy advocacy, as well as through local resistance toward polluting activities. This work adds to growing evidence of the breadth and depth of environmental injustices faced by IPs worldwide, and we conclude by highlighting the need to increase IPs' engagement in environmental decision-making regarding pollution control. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2020;16:324–341.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-341
Number of pages18
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Environmental justice
  • Health burdens
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Native Americans
  • Pollution


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