Quantcast

Grand Canyon Visitors Were Exposed to Unsafe Radiation From Buckets of Uranium for Nearly Two Decades

Health + Wellness
Visitors to the Grand Canyon may have been exposed to unsafe radiation levels, for almost two decades. George Rose / Getty Images

Grand Canyon visitors and employees who passed through the national park's museum collection building were exposed to radiation for nearly two decades, AZCentral reported Monday.

That's because, until last year, three five-gallon paint buckets filled with uranium ore were stored in the building, according to a Feb. 4 email sent out to all National Park Service employees by Grand Canyon safety, health and wellness manager Elston "Swede" Stephenson.


"If you were in the Museum Collections Building (2C) between the year 2000 and June 18, 2018, you were 'exposed' to uranium by the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] OSHA's definition," Stephenson wrote. "The radiation readings, at first blush, exceeds (sic) the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's safe limits."

Stephenson said the buckets had been placed beside a taxidermy exhibit where children sometimes sat during tours for more than 30 minutes. There was enough radiation in the buckets to expose children to levels considered unsafe by federal standards within three seconds and adults within less than 30 seconds. Stephenson said adults may have been exposed to 400 times the Nuclear Regulatory Commission health limit and children 4,000 times.

Stephenson said that while federal officials had learned of and removed the containers last year, park visitors and staff had not been informed of the potential exposure.

"Respectfully, it was not only immoral not to let Our People know," he wrote in a separate email to Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall sent Feb. 11, "but I could not longer risk my (health and safety) certification by letting this go any longer."

The museum collections building where the buckets were stored has around 1,000 visitors every year, News.com.au reported.

Grand Canyon public affairs specialist Emily Davis told AZCentral that the National Park Service was working with OSHA and the Arizona Department of Health Services to investigate the issue. She said that a recent sweep of the building had uncovered only normal, background radiation.

"There is no current risk to the park employees or public," Davis said.

Here is a rough timeline of the incident, according to Stephenson's account, as reported by AZCentral.

  • 2000: The museum collection building opens and the buckets are moved from a basement to the new building.
  • March, 2018: The hazard is discovered when the teenage son of a park employee brings a Geiger counter to the room where the buckets are stored; the buckets are moved to another part of the building.
  • Early June, 2018: Park employees tell Stephenson about the uranium while he is helping with a safety audit, and he calls a National Parks specialist.
  • June 18, 2018: Technicians arrive at the Grand Canyon and remove the buckets. They do not show Stephenson the results of their readings and dump the uranium in Orphan Mine, an old uranium mine near the Grand Canyon.
  • November 2018: Stephenson files a report with OSHA; OSHA inspectors come to the museum building and discover the empty buckets still on the site.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A tropical storm above Bangkok on Aug. 04, 2016. Hristo Rusev/ NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

First off: Bangkok Wakes to Rain, the intricately wrought, elegantly crafted debut novel by the Thai-American author Pitchaya Sudbanthad, isn't really about climate change. This tale set in the sprawling subtropical Thai capital is ultimately a kind of family saga — although its interconnected characters aren't necessarily linked by a bloodline. What binds them is their relationship to a small parcel of urban land on which has variously stood a Christian mission, an upper-class family house, and a towering condominium. All of the characters have either called this place home or had some other significant connection to it.

Read More Show Less
orn_france / iStock / Getty Images

By Susan McCabe, BSc, RD

Dioscorea alata is a species of yam commonly referred to as purple yam, ube, violet yam, or water yam.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Left: MirageC / Moment / Getty Images Right: Pongsak Tawansaeng / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Sole water is water saturated with pink Himalayan salt.

Read More Show Less
People march to TCF Bank Stadium to protest against the mascot for the Washington Redskins before the game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 2, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hannah Foslien / Getty Images

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law Thursday banning public schools or universities in the state from using Native American mascots, names or imagery. Mills' action will make Maine the first state in the nation with such a ban once it goes into effect later this year, The Bangor Daily News reported.

Read More Show Less
A man protests against the use of disposable plastics outside the Houses of Parliament on March 28 in London. John Keeble / Getty Images

Plastic pollution across the globe is suffocating our planet and driving Earth toward catastrophic climatic conditions if not curbed significantly and immediately, according to a new report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL).

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on April 2 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A new climate action plan put forth by Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday is being praised for highlighting the enormous benefits that would result from a rapid shift in the U.S. to a renewable energy economy that centers on the needs of workers and vulnerable communities.

Read More Show Less

Mitshu / E+ / Getty Images

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

Veganism is a way of living that tries to minimize animal exploitation and cruelty.

Read More Show Less

6okean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A federal judge ruled this week that the Food and Drug Administration must begin implementing regulations for the many types of e-cigarettes now on the market in the U.S.

Read More Show Less