While it may be speculative reflection on whether Chris Shuey influences the editorial voices of Gallup and other New Mexico media outlets, it appears that Mr. Shuey may have built the foundation of his career on a uranium-related disaster. On the other hand, can anyone blame an ambulance chaser for trying to make a living too? Short of an episode of Three-Mile-Island in laid-back Gallup, New Mexico, Chris Shuey helped establish the Southwest Information and Research Center in an “expert” vocal counterpoint against the uranium industry by apparently taking advantage of the uranium spill. uranium mill tailings from 1979. near Church Rock. It was considered one of the worst tailings spills to have occurred in North America. We searched for conclusive evidence of deaths from this spill, but found it dry. Any published official report that contradicts the above statement is welcome.
Founded in 1971, the SRIC group established significant media credibility by exploiting the “terrible and grotesque” consequences for human and livestock health of that spill. But where was the real damage in terms of human life and ecological disaster? We obtained the executive summary (dated October 1982) of a NMEID report, titled “The Church Rock Uranium Mill Tailings Spill: An Environmental and Health Assessment.” The report’s authors concluded: “To summarize, the spill affected the surrounding area of the Rio Puerco valley for a brief period, but had little or no effect on the health of local residents.” This report was issued three years after the “largest single release of liquid radioactive waste in the United States” (about 94 million gallons of acidified effluent and tailings sludge).
Some might speculate whether the 1979 news reports about this spill sound and smack of shoddy tabloid journalism. Others might marvel if those stories were more suited only to the most ridiculous supermarket tabloids. If one were to believe what was written then, the entire population of Gallup, New Mexico, should have disappeared off the face of the earth by now. Helping to fuel the current SRIC hysteria about uranium mining, the environmental group has been arguing that HRI’s proposed uranium ISL project, near the Church Rock boundary of the Navajo reservation, would cause groundwater contamination, perhaps with the same gravity as the previous tailings. to spill. In a sense, they seem to be evoking bad memories of that spill. “He’s very good at using media,” sighed HRI’s Craig Bartels. “There are some people who talk a lot,” Bartels explained as he described SRIC’s opposition to his company’s ISL operation, “especially Chris Shuey, who promotes himself as a journalist.”
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) did not give much importance to local media sensationalism. The following was excerpted from his official report on the uranium tailings spill:
o “The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in cooperation with the Church Rock community, found no documented human consumption of river water. The CDC selected six Navajo people who were likely exposed to spilled contaminants and analyzed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where they were found to contain amounts of radioactive material normally found in the human body. Recommendation: No further action is required.
o “No public, private, or municipal wells that produce water for domestic use or for livestock watering were affected by the spill. Wells that draw water solely from sandstone or limestone aquifers will likely never be affected by contaminants from the spill.”
o “Based on limited testing by the CDC, the additional radiation risk from eating local livestock is small. The risk is about the same as the increased risk from cosmic radiation that occurs when going from sea level to 5,000 feet Tall”.
o “Computer modeling identified inhalation as the most important route of man’s radiation exposure from the spill. However, airborne dust sampling along the Puerco River in Gallup shortly after the spill showed only of background radioactivity. In addition, one year after the spill, radioactivity levels in the Puerco River sediments were significantly reduced due to dilution with uncontaminated river sediments.”
The Church Rock incident was reported in the “Journal of Health Physics” (July 1984: Vol 47, No. 1) in an article titled “The Assessment of Human Exposure to Radionuclides from a Uranium Mill Tailings Release and mine dewatering effluents”. .” This report was written by two staff members from the US Center for Disease Control, two staff members from the New Mexico Department of Health and Environment, and one staff member from the Environmental Protection Agency Two powerful conclusions were reached in this report:
“A review of state and federal regulations related to ingestion doses calculated from the Church Rock data indicated that the spill did not exceed exposure limits or chronic exposure to mine dewatering effluent.”
“In light of the currently known cancer incidence and mortality risks associated with the radionuclide levels measured at Church Rock and Gallup, we conclude that the exposed populations are too small for researchers to detect increases in cancer mortality at levels of statistical power. In fact, it can be misleading to establish a (cancer) registry with prior knowledge of the low probability of detecting increases in mortality.”
Despite these scientific reports, Chris Shuey continued to promote the “Hog River Education” project until 1986. “The Gallup Independent” helped promote this panic and headlined a story, “Don’t Drink Hog Water.” In a May 8 (1986) article, coming (conveniently) from Albuquerque, where Chris Shuey resides, the reporter wrote: “What little water there is in the Rio Puerco these days should not be consumed by man or by animals, according to the Southwest Albuquerque Research and Information Center.
Perhaps to strengthen his experience as a health authority, Mr. Shuey earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of New Mexico, across the street from SRIC headquarters. In his thesis, Shuey authored a comprehensive review of the literature on “Kidney Injury Biomarkers: Challenges for Uranium Exposure Studies” (submitted April 29, 2002). After submitting this article, Shuey emerged with the singular claim that uranium causes kidney cancer.
On its website, the American Cancer Society lists smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle as major risk factors that increase your chances of getting kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma). Occupational exposure to certain chemicals can also increase risk. Scientific studies found they could include: asbestos, cadmium (a type of metal), some herbicides, benzene, and organic solvents, particularly trichlorethylene. The American Cancer Society does not mention that uranium exposure causes kidney cancer. However, cadmium is another story.
The problem of first reaching a conclusion and then investigating the facts to confirm your preconceived notion negates the scientific process. For example, Shuey dances on the topic of cadmium throughout his report, but fails to correlate burning household waste with the dangers of dioxins and cadmium when it comes to kidney-related problems and possible cancers. It appears that Shuey may have failed to include the largest single source of toxic air emissions, which occurred in New Mexico prior to June 1, 2004, as a possible cause of kidney toxicity: burning garbage. At this time, New Mexico remains one of the few states that has not banned the burning of electronic equipment. Such burning garbage reportedly releases high concentrations of cadmium into the air. Could it be that something as obvious as cadmium concentrations could be the risk factor leading to kidney cancer rather than the putative uranium?
According to research scientist Dalway Swaine (Trace Elements in Coal, Butterworths: 1990), cadmium is a toxic trace element in coal. Coal combustion contributes a tenth of the Cd to the atmosphere, as do volcanoes, and is considered a minor source of atmospheric cadmium. The problem might not be the uranium at all, but other chemicals. However, fundraisers to reduce cadmium emissions, let alone anti-coal mining fundraisers, might not lead to sold-out celebrity dinners in Santa Fe.
Not surprisingly, SRIC appears to be less concerned with public health than with its anti-nuclear agenda. In general, the public reaction to an environmentalist is a warm and fuzzy feeling: “Wow, here’s someone who really cares about our future.” SRIC has worked closely with the Navajo Nation, akin to the third world, which instantly draws sympathy from any liberal-minded individual. In fact, when StockInterview.com interviewed Shuey, he was on the sidelines at a meeting. His publicly displayed concern for the Navajo is commendable. At the same time, it should also be considered that if the most frequent cause of death among Navajo adults is alcohol abuse (often accompanied by driving), why hasn’t SRIC worked more closely to reduce that public health problem? ?
Visit the outskirts of any reservation and you’ll find loads of bottles of beer, liquor, and wine. A literate stop near Crownpoint, New Mexico, took on the personality of a landfill. Where are the SRIC cries for mercy for the abused Navajo? More Navajos have died as a result of drunken car accidents than from fifty years of uranium mining. But then again, that may be of little concern to an environmental group. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr. could make better use of Mr. Shuey by asking, “Can you help us with the alcohol problem?”
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