environmental health risk
The Queen Mine Tour has been one of Bisbee’s and the state’s highest visited sites by tourists, and now due to safety concerns presented last Friday by Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, Inc., it may need to be closed for a while, though the city is working to prevent that.
FMI director of discontinued operations Joseph Brunner told city staff at the meeting that due to elevated levels of radon detected in the mine over the past year, it may be best to close the mine while the company figures out a way to keep the exposure to radon within safe limits.
Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that cannot be seen, tasted or smelled, can be found in any underground mine that has subsurface granite rock, according to Brunner. Radon decays into particles that stick to surfaces, such as airborne dust particles which when breathed in, in high amounts, can stick to lung tissue increasing the risk of lung cancer.
During National Radon Action Month, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) and Cheaha Regional Head Start led educational workshops for parents, volunteers and staff. The workshops emphasized the importance of radon testing and encouraged attendees to take action and test their homes for radon.
As coordinator of the state’s indoor radon program, I routinely deal with inquiries regarding health risks related to indoor radon exposure. My worst phone call is: "My wife/husband was just diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, we have never smoked a day in our lives and our doctor told us to test our home for radon. What is radon, and why hasn’t someone told us about it?"
Currently, Utah lawmakers are addressing major air quality concerns. It is no secret: Utahns value their crystal clear mountain air. Most often, it is the outdoor pollution that captures the attention because nasty smog is visible.
Ironically, indoor pollution, which may have higher health risks, receives less attention because it is not detectable. If homeowners could see the polluted air in their bedrooms and cozy family rooms, they would be shocked. Even worse, if they or someone they loved were diagnosed with lung cancer, they would probably demand answers to how and why.