If you’ve been to the Grand Canyon in the last couple decades, even if you lingered over museum exhibits, don’t worry – that’s what a group of radiation experts, many with Oak Ridge ties, wants to tell everyone.
This week news emerged that three 5-gallon buckets of uranium ore sat neglected next to a taxidermy exhibit in Grand Canyon National Park’s museum collectibles building for 18 years, a spot where tour groups sometimes stopped for long presentations.
On Feb. 4, the park’s safety, health and wellness manager Elston “Swede” Stephenson sent an email to all Park Service employees alleging the ore may have exposed adults to 400 times, and children up to 4,000 times, the level of radiation considered safe. He accused park officials of a cover-up, saying nothing was done to warn park workers or the public of their possible exposure.
The Health Physics Society, a 3,500-strong group of radiation safety specialists with many members who work or have worked, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory or at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, says those fears are overblown.
“Uranium ore is a low-risk material that, unless ingested, would not be emitting enough radiation from these three buckets to cause harmful effects,” the group said in a Wednesday statement. “Again, based on the information provided, the exposure would not have been high enough to harm children either.”