“For nearly two decades at the Grand Canyon, tourists, employees, and children on tours passed by three paint buckets stored in the National Park’s museum collection building, unaware that they were being exposed to radiation.
Although federal officials learned last year that the 5-gallon containers were brimming with uranium ore, then removed the radioactive specimens, the park’s safety director alleges nothing was done to warn park workers or the public that they might have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation.
In a rogue email sent to all Park Service employees on Feb. 4, Elston “Swede” Stephenson — the safety, health and wellness manager — described the alleged cover-up as “a top management failure” and warned of possible health consequences.
In his letter to colleagues, Stephenson apologized for the untimely notice. He stressed that exposure may not be severe depending on how close individuals got to the source, how long they were exposed, what they were wearing, and other factors. He also emphasized that employees will not necessarily suffer health consequences, but should consider receiving a medical screening.
“Of particular concern are 1000s of children attending ‘shows’ in very close proximity to the uranium,” he wrote. Those presentations lasted a half hour or more, he said, yet radiation dosages could have exceeded federal safety standards within seconds.
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