Letter to the editor: Senate bill to ban uranium mining the right call

A Senate bill to prevent any additional uranium mining near the Grand Canyon National Park, as sponsored by Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema, should unequivocally be supported (Senate bill would van mining claims around the Grand Canyon, A3, 12/21/19, AZ Daily Sun). Having diagnosed and treated hundreds of patients with a variety of cancers who live on the Navajo and Hopi Nations, eliminating future exposure of my patients to a known carcinogen is a priority.

It is important to recall recent history when developing policy. Navajo and Hopi miners and their families were exposed to high levels of uranium in and around Tuba City and Cameron beginning in the 1950s. The Rare Metals mine outside of Tuba City only recently closed in 1997. The cleanup of these mines and their tailings were suspect and has caused a plume of uranium to contaminate ground water. (Uranium’s legacy lingers for Navajos March 1, 2010, Four Corners Free Press) Despite precautions developed by mines to decrease the dangers of radiation to the miners themselves, many Native Americans have been diagnosed with a variety of cancers related to uranium exposure. Thyroid cancer has the most direct link to uranium. There is also some literature that suggests gastric cancer can also be caused with uranium exposure.

In a recent guest column for the Daily Sun by a local geologist (The hypocrites involved with uranium mining, A5, 12/6/19), there were misleading comments made. Despite Mr. Bain’s statement to the contrary, the environment is not fully protected by modern-day mining practices. It was the lack of effective safeguards for the miners and the incomplete cleanup of these mines that lead to the increased incidence of cancer seen in my patients. It wasn’t just the radon in the mines, it has been the uranium in the tailings and in the ground water that caused cancer.

Despite his attempt at reassurance of “modern” uranium mining, these companies have shown a historic disregard for anything but their bottom line. This scientist was also echoing the talking points of the White House and other conservative pundits concerning the use of alternative fuels. Though some types of solar panels and very tall wind turbines do kill birds, their benefits outweigh the risks. As a matter of fact, the Audubon Society states that both solar and wind power are safer for birds than carbon-based fuels.

I fully support banning uranium mining in and around the Grand Canyon. The risk to the miners, their families and the surrounding communities are too great. Sinema’s Senate bill needs to become law before another generation of Native Americans are exposed to the lethal effects of uranium. Call Senator McSally to let her know that uranium mining needs to be banned in northwestern Arizona. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of prior generations.

GREGORY JARRIN, M.D.

Winslow

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