Grand Canyon Visitors May Have Been Exposed To Radiation, Says Safety Manager

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Grand Canyon Visitors May Have Been Exposed To Radiation, Says Safety Manager

Pixabay / MK817

Being that it is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States, Arizona's Grand Canyon sees millions of visitors every year.

In addition to the national park's natural wonders and popular viewpoints, visitors also frequent the nearby Grand Canyon Museum Collection to take in some history.

Unfortunately for those who have spent time in the building between 2000 and June 18, 2018, there's a chance that they may have been exposed to potentially dangerous levels of  radiation.

For 18 years, there have been three five-gallon buckets containing uranium that were stored in the building at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The paint buckets containing the radioactive chemical, were reportedly placed next to the taxidermy exhibition, which was often frequented by tour groups, including children.

In an email sent out to all National Park Service employees earlier this month, Grand Canyon safety, health and wellness manager Elston "Swede" Stephenson revealed that "the radiation readings, at first blush, exceeds (sic) the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's safe limits."

According to Stephenson, there was enough radiation in the buckets to expose children to unsafe levels within three seconds and adults in less than 30 seconds.

Stephenson added that children may have been exposed to 4,000 times the Nuclear Regulatory Commission health limit, and adults 400 times.

While normal dosages of radiation do not cause any harm, higher levels could lead to the damage of the cells as well as other severe health complications, including cancer.

The Grand Canyon Museum Collection storage and research facilityNational Park Service

It wasn't until a teenager with a Geiger counter, an instrument used for detecting and measuring radiation, discovered the buckets that something was finally done about them.

Federal officials have known about the containers since the teen found them. They had the uranium removed last June, but did not inform visitors or staff about the potential exposure.

In November 2018, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) inspectors found the empty buckets were left in the building after Stephenson filed a report.

"Respectfully, it was not only immoral not to let Our People know, but I could not longer risk my (health and safety) certification by letting this go any longer," Stephenson wrote in a separate email to Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall.

At this time, it's unclear how many visitors (the museum gets around 1,000 per year) may have been exposed to the radiation or if any of them have been ill as a result.

There are no antidotes for radiation exposure, so those who have been affected will likely need to undergo chemical therapies as well as regular long-term screenings to ensure radioactivity levels in their bodies remain at low levels.

Grand Canyon public affairs specialist Emily Davis has reassured the public that "there is no current risk to the park employees or public" so the museum remains open.

The issue is being investigated by the National Park Service as well as the OSHA.

[H/T: USA Today]

Have you or anyone you know been to the Grand Canyon museum in the last 18 years? Let us know in the comments.

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.