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As the clock runs out on industry claims that low levels of radiation are not harmful, Dr.s begin speaking out to the contrary, and demanding action.
On several occasions in recent years uranium mining companies have brought guest speakers to Australia to argue that low-level radiation exposure is not only harmless but actually good for you. To promote such marginal views without any counter-balance is self-serving and irresponsible and it may be time for governments to step in to provide that balance.
Recent research has heightened rather than lessened concern about the adverse health impacts of low-level radiation. Moreover the latest science - concerning the health impacts of exposure to radon gas - is important in the context of the ongoing debate over uranium mining in Australia.
In 2009, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) stated that radon gas delivers twice the radiation dose to humans as originally thought and is in the process of reassessing permissible levels. At this stage, previous dose estimates to miners need to be approximately doubled to accurately reflect the lung cancer hazard...
Doug Brugge is a Professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University who grew up in the Southwest- uranium mining country. But it was a newspaper article on Navajo health that got him interested in the medical dangers of uranium mining.
Prof. Brugge followed up this interest by doing an oral history project documenting the swath uranium mining has cut through the Navajo community, and has done follow-up studies examining this devastation. He speaks of the difficulties of doing such studies, and his ongoing commitment to education on this subject, particularly that of the impact of uranium mining on reproductive health.
Read article about Doug Brugge and his work.
From danger concealed by Manhattan Project secrecy, to homes made of radioactive dust, and Church Rock- the largest accidental release of radioactive material in the US, Judy Pasternak tells the terrible story of uranium mining in the Navajo nation.
NPR l Science Friday October 22, 2010
In her book Yellow Dirt: An American Story of a Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed, formerLos Angeles Times reporter Judy Pasternak documents the toxic legacy of uranium mining in the Navajo lands of northeastern Arizona, where radioactive dust wound up in Navajo homes and drinking water.
IRA FLATOW, host:
You're listening to SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. I'm Ira Flatow.
In the thick of World War II, with the government worried about atomic experiments in Germany, the Manhattan Project was born. And it had one mission, and that was full speed ahead on research to produce the atom bomb.
There was just one problem: where to get the uranium. At the time, there were two prime sources, the first, a mine way up near the Arctic Circle, over a 1,000 miles from the nearest railway; and the other, a mine deep in the Belgian Congo.
So the Army wondered: Wasn't there any more secure, domestic source of uranium ore? And they found it, and a lot of it, all over the Navajo homeland in northeastern Arizona, which is where my next guest's book takes places...
This isn't the first time French company Areva has come under scrutiny, but as this article in The Guardian says- little positive action has come of investigations which have all found problems with radioactive contamination, safety issues, water contamination and overuse, and more in poverty stricken Niger.
As a major employer, Areva has a lot of power in Niger. But, this doesn't excuse their knowing exploitation of workers desperate for jobs, exposure of villages to radioactive contamination, and abuse of the country's vulnerable financial position. And, it doesn't excuse the cynical attitude that led Areva to say to a Der Spiegel journalist that they were "not in the business of being a charity," and that Niger "should be grateful."
Memories Come To Us In the Rain and the Wind: Oral Histories and Photographs of Navajo Uranium Miners & Their Families (Extracts)
Originally Published in In Motion Magazine - November 16, 1997.
Arizona and New Mexico
The following interviews and photographs are taken, with permission, from "Memories Come To Us In the Rain and the Wind", Oral Histories and Photographs of Navajo Uranium Miners & Their Families.
The book of 25 interviews is part of the campaign of Navajo uranium miners and their families to gain compensation for the great loss in death and illness brought about by mining uranium, with no warning of its ill effects, during the Cold War era of 1947- 1971.
Doug Brugge was director and photographer for the book project and Timothy Benally and Phil Harrison were interviewers. Translation and transcription were byTimothy Benally, Martha Austin-Garrison and Lydia Fasthorse-Begay.
From the interview with Floyd Frank: .... several of my brothers have died from the effects of uranium ... So their lives ended in front of my eyes, and several others who are related to me have had the same thing happen to them .... My sympathy goes to them and I am affected from it (I have silicosis) and have become weak. I lack energy to work even at my own home. If they told us about it at the time of uranium mining, perhaps we would not have worked. .... And later, when it really starts to affect me, I think I'll also be one of the victims.
Are we disposable to the government? These are some of our thoughts this uranium brings out to the front ....
Mia Pepper l thewest.com.au September 16th, 2010
The Barnett Government recently announced that the Australian Centre for Geomechanics had won a tender to form an "independent panel on uranium mining regulations". Sitting on the panel are pro-nuclear lobbyists and behind the scenes are corporate sponsors including some that are anything but independent.
...the industry's record in Australia should give us pause for thought.
BHP Billiton is proposing the Yeelirrie uranium mine in WA. BHP Billiton also operates the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia and enjoys a raft of indefensible exemptions from the SA Environment Protection Act, the Natural Resources Act, the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
Photos taken by an Olympic Dam mine worker in December 2008 show radioactive tailings liquid leaking from the "retention" system. The company's response to the whistleblower's evidence was to threaten disciplinary action against any mine worker caught taking photos of the mine site.
We still do not know whether or how key issues - such as workers' health and safety, tailings rehabilitation, transport and groundwater impacts - will be addressed by the panel. We fear that crucial issues, such as impacts on workers' health and communities and nuclear weapons proliferation, will not be addressed at all.