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Researchers receive grant to study uranium exposure in native communities

Colton Shone
October 25, 2017 06:22 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Uranium exposure has had many negative effects on Native American communities in the Southwest, ranging from sickness to death. The University of New Mexico is getting in on the fight to prevent this from happening to future generations.

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According to UNM researchers, there are 4,000 abandoned uranium mines and 160,000 abandoned hard rock mines throughout the western United States. About 500 of them are on the Navajo Nation.

Dr. Johnnye Lewis with the UNM College of Pharmacy said they've just received a five-year grant to study what exposure these mines are having on native communities with more than a million people living a few miles from them.

"What we found in that older generation was an increase in cardiovascular disease, dysfunction in the immune system, increase auto-immune disease," Lewis said.

She points to the Gold King Mine spill as one of the ways mine waste contaminated several communities, but they also want to find out how else mine contaminants move.

"How does it move through all those different pathways," she said. "Lots of concern how it moves through different food pathways and what kinds of exposures might happen there."

At the end, they're hoping to find ways to either close off mines, clean them up or use medicine to reverse the effects exposure is having on people.

"We're also looking at things like installing warning systems, so if we find that the main exposure pathways in certain areas are through wind, then we'll look at how do you let people know when there's wind coming from a direction that will mobilize that."

Credits

Colton Shone

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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