(Santa Fe, NM)— Today, the House Health Committee tabled HB 494, a bill that would have created a community health fund to study the impacts that uranium mining pollution poses to public health. The Senate companion bill SB 610 sponsored by Sen. Shendo has yet to be heard.
Pollution, like legacy waste sites from uranium mining, not only endangers natural resources but also poses severe risks to public health. There is currently no process in place to study the impacts that environmental degradation has on the quality of health over time.
“From legacy waste sites to water contamination, many of New Mexico’s communities – from rural to Tribal – have experienced the consequences of environmental degradation and poor conservation policy decisions first hand. Decades have passed since uranium mining occurred actively in New Mexico and a comprehensive health study of the Grants Mineral Belt communities has never been conducted. This bill would have helped right this wrong while holding companies accountable for contamination they left in New Mexico,” said Demis Foster, CVNM Executive Director.
Several case studies have found that there are links between uranium exposure and health problems. A 2000 University of New Mexico study found that kidney disease, hypertension, and autoimmune diseases were more prevalent among people that lived closer to mine waste sites. It also found that birth defects are often connected to radiation exposure.
State health assessments found that between 2008 and 2010, cancer was the leading cause of death in McKinley County. Despite this statistic, the state has no system in place to monitor health conditions as it relates to the uranium waste sites or industrial processes.
“NM is home to the largest radioactive spill in history. We have three uranium superfund sites in the region. In order for us as New Mexico’s elected officials to make informed decisions about the health of our communities, we need this kind of tool to properly understand the impacts these processes have on communities over time and guide long-term community planning that supports sustainable development,” said Rep. Georgene Louis.
“A baseline health study is a basic step needed to move forward to legitimize the effects of uranium and determine if it is a big factor in health around these sites,” said James Dennison of Fort Wingate, NM, who traveled to Santa Fe for the hearing.
CVNM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is connecting the people of New Mexico to their political power to protect our air, land, and water for a healthy Land of Enchantment. We do this by mobilizing voters, helping candidates win elections, holding elected officials accountable and advancing responsible public policies.
Contact: Liliana Castillo, 505-992-8683 or email@example.com