GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — The National Park Service (NPS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) completed an interagency safety review finding no radiation exposure health risk to employees or visitors from uranium ore samples at Grand Canyon National Park.
The NPS and DOI initiated the review following an environmental audit flagging uranium rock samples in the Museum Collection building at the park’s South Rim. An investigative team of radiation, industrial hygiene and safety and occupational health experts were sent to the park in February to identify the potential level of exposure and risk to visitors and employees. In March, the team announced its preliminary findings, which are confirmed in this final report.
The team contracted with a technical firm to conduct a radiation dose reconstruction to determine the level of exposure when rock samples were stored in the facility; interviewed employees to document the manner in which the materials were stored, employee work practices and likely exposure pathways; analyzed past assessment reports and available radiation safety practices; and developed recommendations for managing collection samples in the future. Additionally, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the report for accuracy.
“When we started this investigation, we wanted to be absolutely sure we had all of the necessary experts at the table. After assembling the team and collecting our data, I am relieved to announce that our comprehensive review identified no health concerns with radiation exposure from the park’s uranium ore samples,” Chief of the NPS Office of Risk Management and safety review team lead Michael May said. “I want to thank the safety team for their dedicated work, our colleagues from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for their careful review of our report’s methodology and findings, and the park staff and public for their patience and concern.”
The team surveyed the locations within the Museum Collection building where the buckets containing uranium ore were stored and determined the areas to be free of residual contamination. Taxidermy specimens from the natural history collection that were stored in close proximity to the buckets containing uranium ore were surveyed and determined to be free of residual contamination as well. The team provided recommendations regarding the handling of museum mineral specimens, including uranium ore and other specimens that contain naturally occurring radioactive elements.
The Museum Collection building is a storage and research facility dedicated to preserving the physical artifacts that tell the Grand Canyon story. The building is located in an administrative area that is separate from visitor use areas. Tours are by appointment only and visitation averages up to 1,000 visitors and researchers annually. The NPS stores objects and documents as part of research collections and to have representative samples of park resources.
Information provided by NPS