Jul 29, 2022 - News

A superhero goat takes on uranium pollution on the Navajo Nation

Comic book illustrations show a superhero called Gamma Goat teaching young sheep the dangers of uranium contamination.
An illustration from Gamma Goat, a comic book in which a superhero goat teaches children the dangers of uranium contamination in the Navajo Nation. Image: EPA

Navajo Nation volunteers are trying to protect children from the toxic vestiges of uranium mining with coloring books, games and a superhero called Gamma Goat.

Driving the news: Community groups in the nation are distributing Gamma Goat comic books and other safety materials to kids to commemorate the anniversary of the Church Rock mining disaster. It unleashed the biggest radioactive spill in U.S. history onto Navajo land in 1979.

  • Diné communities in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico have been fighting for decades for payments and resources to deal with contamination from widespread uranium mining in the 20th century.

Details: Volunteers say they are focusing on children's safety because they weren't warned of the dangers of contamination when they were kids exploring mining remnants, the Arizona Republic reports.

  • The Gamma Goat comic, first printed in 1999, warns kids not to go into shafts, collect rocks from debris piles or cool off in open pit mines that may look like good swimming holes.

Context: Contamination from the mines has ravaged Diné bodies for generations.

  • It has been blamed for high cancer rates in the Navajo Nation, which doubled from the 1970s to the 1990s.
  • Uranium and other toxic chemicals are found in high concentrations among a large number of Diné women and infants.

Meanwhile: Although some residents have received federal compensation, others — like those who worked on clean-up rather than in the mines — have struggled to obtain relief.

  • A mill three miles from the Ute tribal community of White Mesa in San Juan County is still operating and has accepted 700 million pounds of radioactive waste, according to a report this year by the Grand Canyon Trust.
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