When visiting the Grand Canyon National Park, one might expect to see beautiful nature and breathtaking views. However, what you likely wouldn't expect, and certainly wouldn't want, is radiation exposure.
According to CNN, Grand Canyon visitors who visited the Grand Canyon National Park Museum and employees who worked at the museum over the last 18 years, may have been exposed to elevated levels of radiation. This exposure came as a result of storing uranium on site at the museum. By law, the museum was supposed to warn visitors about the uranium and the possible radiation exposure. Apparently, buckets of uranium ore had been stored at the museum for decades and tested positive for radioactivity above federal limits. Although it was removed, employees didn't have proper protective gear during the removal, but just had garden gloves and broom sticks to lift the buckets for transport. After the uranium was dumped, the contaminated buckets were brought back to the museum, which continued to put employees and visitors at risk.
Both the Natural Resources Committee and the Department of the Interior's Office of the Inspector General are further investigating the situation to determine the extent of the harm done by this uranium storage. The biggest concerns are the fact that tours of schoolchildren often walked passed the uranium and employees and interns worked near it on a daily basis for years.
What is Uranium?
Uranium is a chemical element that occurs naturally in rocks of the Grand Canyon National Park. Uranium is radioactive, which is why it can be dangerous. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, “Even if you are exposed to uranium, you might not be harmed. Whether you are harmed will depend on such factors as the dose (how much), the duration (how long), and how you happen to contact it.”
Most of the time exposure to uranium occurs through inhalation or ingestion—Uranium dust can be inhaled or get into food and water and be ingested. In small amounts, uranium will most likely leave the body. But because uranium is a heavy metal and radioactive, if it does enter your bloodstream it can cause damage to your lungs, bones, and kidneys. It can also put you at risk for developing kidney disease or certain types of cancer. Those especially at risk include workers in power plants, nuclear plants, weapons production, or mining, who are exposed to high levels of uranium daily.
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