You Could Have Been Exposed to Radiation at Grand Canyon National Park

Uranium ore was sitting in buckets near park visitors.

If you’ve visited the Grand Canyon in the last 18 years you might have walked by buckets filled with uranium ore, causing possible radiation contamination.

Grand Canyon employees, visitors, and researchers walked past the buckets for years from 2000 to June of 2018, The Oregonian reports.

Elston Stephenson, the park’s safety director, says one of the buckets was so full that the lid couldn’t close over the uranium ore.

“The radiation readings, at first blush, exceed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safe limits,” Stephenson wrote in an email to fellow park staff. “Identifying who was exposed, and your exposure level, gets tricky and is our next important task.”

“Please understand, this doesn’t mean that you’re somehow contaminated, or that you are going to have health issues,” he continued. “It merely means essentially that there was uranium on the site and you were in its presence… And by law we are supposed to tell you.”

An area of the park where children would sit, sometimes for 30 minutes at a time, watching a presentation, is close enough to the taxidermy exhibit where the buckets were stored for Stephenson to be concerned. “Those children could have received radiation dosages in excess of federal safety standards within three seconds, and adults could have suffered dangerous exposure in less than a half-minute,” he told the Arizona Republic.

The buckets were removed last summer and the National Park Service says there isn’t immediate danger and the area where the collection was found at the facility found radiation levels at “background levels– the amount always present in the environment.”

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