What are the health costs of uranium mining? A case study of miners in Grants, New Mexico

Uranium mining is associated with lung cancer and other health problems among miners. Health impacts are related with miner exposure to radon gas progeny. This study estimates the health costs of excess lung cancer mortality among uranium miners in the largest uranium-producing district in the USA, centred in Grants, New Mexico. Lung cancer mortality rates on miners were used to estimate excess mortality and years of life lost (YLL) among the miner population in Grants from 1955 to 2005. A cost analysis was performed to estimate direct (medical) and indirect (premature mortality) health costs. Total health costs ranged from $2.2 million to $7.7 million per excess death. This amounts to between $22.4 million and $165.8 million in annual health costs over the 1955-1990 mining period. Annual exposure-related lung cancer mortality was estimated at 2185.4 miners per 100,000 with a range of 1419.8-2974.3 per 100.000. The author concluded that given renewed interest in uranium worldwide, results suggest a re-evaluation of radon exposure standards and inclusion of miner long-term health into mining planning decisions.

Author: Jones BA. ;Full Source: International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health. 2014 Oct;20(4):289-300. doi: 10.1179/2049396714Y.0000000077. ;