Markey, Waxman, Luján, Pallone Urge Progress, Continued Resources for Study of Public Health Impacts of Uranium Mining on Navajo Lands
Today, Reps. Edward J. Markey, Henry A. Waxman, Ben Ray Luján, and Frank Pallone asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for an update on progress of the Navajo Birth Cohort Study, a first of its kind study to assess the impacts associated with exposure to abandoned uranium mine and waste sites. In 2008, Congress mandated this study to address public health concerns associated with past uranium mining and milling on tribal lands and learn more about the possible impacts of exposure to these wastes on affected communities, particularly children. With development of the study plan in motion and enrollment yet to begin, the lawmakers pressed for continued resources to support this critical research. Research findings could help provide broad public health benefits for Navajo communities through increased use of prenatal care and earlier identification of developmental delays.
“We believe this study is of great importance, as it would be the first detailed look at the public health impacts of past uranium mining and milling operations on Navajo children,” write the lawmakers in the letter to the CDC. “It is therefore imperative that appropriate resources be directed to its completion.”
A copy of the letter to the CDC can be found here.
The Navajo Nation Reservation, comprising approximately 27,000 acres in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, was heavily mined for uranium to support development of the atomic bomb and subsequent cold-war weapons production from 1942 through the late-1960s. Although the last operating mines on the Navajo Nation closed in the mid-1980s, five hundred abandoned uranium mines and additional waste sites and contaminated buildings were left behind, most of which have never been remediated. Despite long-term, chronic exposures of community members to uranium contamination, no comprehensive health studies have ever been conducted to assess the impact on the Navajo people from such exposures.
In conjunction with this study, Congress initiated the development of the Five-Year Plan. Initiated in 2008, this plan is the first coordinated approach developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy (DOE), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Indian Health Service (IHS) to address uranium contamination and cleanup for the Navajo Nation.
Rep. Markey is Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Waxman is Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Luján is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, and Rep. Pallone is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health.
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