Published: March 29, 2011
By: Lauren Pagel, Cathy Carlson
From the fact sheet:
Though uranium is found naturally in the environment, it can be extremely toxic when mined and processed. When uranium is mined, other radioactive decay elements such as radium and thorium are released.
Exposure to these radioactive elements can cause lung cancer, skin cancer, bone cancer, leukemia, kidney damage and birth defects. Recent research has found an association between exposure to mine waste and autoimmune dysfunction, including diabetes.
Uranium mining can also release other toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, selenium, mercury and cadmium. Uranium has been used primarily for nuclear weapons and electric power generation, although it has also been used in various other products such as copper and nickel alloy production.
In the United States, uranium is mined both at conventional surface mines as well as in-situ leach operations, which for the last 30 years have been the primary source of uranium production.