Utah's Toxic & Radioactive Legacy

Utah’s history with toxic and radioactive waste is extensive. It includes large-scale uranium mining and milling operations, nuclear testing fallout, widespread radon exposure, the incineration of chemical weapons, and ongoing radioactive dumping. These activities have caused significant and lasting health issues for Utah residents.

Environmental and Health Impacts​

Radioactive and toxic waste in Utah, particularly near waste sites and mining operations, increases cancer risks, respiratory issues, and ecological damage, disproportionately impacting vulnerable communities and highlighting the need for stringent safety measures and environmental justice. Key environmental and public health effects include:

Effects on Health

  • Radioactive and toxic waste pose severe health risks to Utah residents, particularly in communities near waste sites and mining operations. Exposure to nuclear waste and radon gas increases the risk of cancers, including lung and thyroid cancer. Heavy metals and toxic chemicals from mining activities can lead to respiratory issues, kidney damage, and neurological disorders. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. The long-term health effects of chronic exposure include genetic mutations and reproductive issues, emphasizing the need for stringent safety measures and monitoring to protect public health.

Effects on the Environment

  • Utah’s environment suffers significantly from radioactive and toxic waste. Contamination of soil and water sources from uranium mining and improper waste disposal degrades ecosystems, impacting wildlife and plant life. Radioactive materials can persist in the environment for thousands of years, causing long-term ecological damage. The Great Salt Lake region, already stressed by water scarcity, faces additional threats from toxic dust stirred by wind erosion. Additionally, the transportation of nuclear waste through Utah raises significant concerns about potential spills, which could lead to widespread contamination and long-lasting environmental harm.

Inequity in Environmental and Health effects

Many contaminated sites were deliberately chosen to be near populations lacking political and economic power to resist their designation. Communities that live near contaminated sites are often socially and economically disadvantaged and cope with generations of exposure and illnesses. This creates a cycle of burdens linked to financial and health problems in communities that lack the resources needed to protect their families from exposure and spearhead remediation efforts. If an accident, such as a leak or a crash while transporting the material, occurs in a waste storage container or facility, the waste can contaminate water sources, soil, and even air, which can poison the nearby neighborhoods and ecosystems. 


We recognize that radioactive and toxic materials pose an environmental and public health crisis in tandem with our climate crisis.

 Consequently, HEAL Utah believes there is no inclusive clean energy future if we continue to ignore the impacts of extraction on public health and frontline communities. When it comes to past, present, and future harms, we must stand with and protect Utah’s communities. 

Mitigating Radioactive Waste Risks

HEAL Utah supports policies that prioritize protecting communities from toxic and radioactive waste exposure and compensating those affected.


    • Ensure Compliance and Advocate for Updated Regulations for Radioactive Waste DisposalHEAL Utah ensures compliance with low-level waste regulations, advocates for updated policies, and works to prevent further disposal of radioactive waste like depleted uranium in Utah while actively monitoring industry efforts to weaken these standards.
    • Expanding Compensation for Affected Communities: HEAL Utah is dedicated to extending and expanding the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to ensure those affected by nuclear testing and uranium mining receive the compensation they deserve amidst rising medical costs.

Creating Safe and Healthy Communities: Protecting Public Health

HEAL Utah actively advocates for policies and community solutions to reduce toxic exposure and protect public health.


    • Radon in homes: HEAL Utah addresses the state’s high radon exposure levels by advocating for policies and community solutions to increase testing and remediation, ensuring healthier environments for all residents

Ensuring Strong and Accountable Mining Regulations

HEAL Utah advocates for policies to remediate and prevent mining harms, ensuring community health and responsible renewable energy mining.


  • Uranium mining and milling: Mining has a mixed legacy that has burdened many communities with social and environmental harms. HEAL Utah advocates for policies and regulations that remediate past and present harms caused by the mining industry and prevent future damage. We promote policies to close abandoned mines and work alongside community members to address the milling and processing of toxic materials, such as at the White Mesa Mill, ensuring the protection and health of affected communities.


  • Responsible Mining for Renewable Energy: HEAL Utah actively works to prevent repeating past harms by the energy sector as we transition to renewable energy, advocating for strong regulations and safeguards in the mining of renewable materials.


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