Yellowcake is a product of uranium mining. Many Navajo people worked at the mines, often living and raising families in close proximity; they were unknowingly exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and chemicals. Uranium mining and yellowcake processing continues today and threatens the environment and the health of communities across the U.S.
The navajo people did not have a word for radioactivity and did not know about the dangers of radiation in the 1940s when mining companies began surveying their land. Today the mines are closed but their toxic legacy persist in contaminated soil and drinking water with elevated levels of radiation. There are still over 500 abandoned mines scattered throughout the Navajo land posing serious health risks include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, as well as bone cancer and impaired kidney function.
Today uranium mining near the Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon, threatens the drinking water supplies of millions of people. Due to uranium contamination in the Colorado River, the drinking water supply for half of the population of the Western U.S. may already be radioactive.
There are over 500 abandoned uranium mines on The Navajo Reservation and more than 80% of the mine sites have not been cleaned up. There are currently no federal laws that require clean up of these hazardous sites and they continue to pose significant danger to the Navajo people.
Toxic radioactive particles left over from abandoned uranium mines on Navajo land take the form of dust which travels with the wind for hundreds of miles. It can be inhaled or blow into streams or onto nearby ground spreading radioactive contamination.
Fall coat made with leaves