The federal government is currently in the process of trying to get rid of tens of thousands of tons of radioactive scrap metal it has accumulated over the years from various nuclear testing and wartime activities. And a recent proposal made by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would lift existing restrictions on the recycling and reuse of this nuclear waste, allowing it to be formulated into everyday consumer products like belt buckles, silverware, and even surgical devices used by medical personnel on ill patients.
The shocking proposal comes more than a decade after DOE first tried to foist this growing stock of nuclear waste onto the American public back in the late 1990s. Back in 2000, Congressman Ed Markey from Massachusetts reportedly influenced then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to reinstate a ban that was temporarily lifted on the unmitigated recycling and reuse of radioactive waste metals in consumer products. But now, DOE is trying once again to secretly dispose of this radioactive waste stock by allowing scrap companies to sell it to consumer product manufacturers.
“A Department of Energy proposal to allow up to 14,000 metric tons of its radioactive scrap metal to be recycled into consumer products was called into question today by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) due to concerns over public health,” wrote Rep. Markey in a recent news brief about the issue. “In a letter sent to DOE head Steven Chu, Rep. Markey expressed ‘grave concerns’ over the potential of these metals becoming jewelry, cutlery, or other consumer products that could exceed healthy doses of radiation without any knowledge by the consumer.”
If granted its request, DOE could soon be responsible for triggering the widespread poisoning of the public with even more low-dose radiation via metal-based consumer products. Such products include not only cutlery and jewelry, but also automobiles, city buses, coffee makers, toasters, braces for teeth — practically anything that contains metal could end up being tainted with low-dose radiation as a result of DOE’s efforts.
Many imported consumer products already tainted with radiation
Even though DOE’s proposal has yet to become official policy, American consumers already need to be wary of the safety of metal-based products, particularly those imported from other countries. As we reported last January, domestic merchandise retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond recalled a line of tissue holders produced in India from its stores after learning that the metal used in their production was tainted with radio-isotope cobalt-60. In fact, radioactive goods routinely slip through customs, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is a serious cause for concern.
“India and China were the top sources of radioactive goods shipped to the U.S. through 2008,” explains a March 24, 2012, Bloomberg article about radioactive scrap metal. And there is no indication that things have improved since that time, according to Ross Bartley, a metallurgist who has been tracking radioactive contamination since the early 1990s. In all likelihood, he says, the problem has remained the same or even gotten worse.
Since low-dose radiation has been shown time and time again to cause birth defects, cataracts, cancer, and many other health problems, DOE’s insistence on exposing the public to even more of it is highly disturbing. Perhaps this is at least part of the reason why DOE head Steven Chu recently stepped down from his position at the agency following Rep. Markey’s letter of opposition to the agency’s proposal, not to mention a widespread and growing disapproval among citizens of this serious affront to public health.
Contact DOE and say NO to radioactive poisoning of consumer products
Though DOE insists that the amount of radiation emitted from radioactive waste is “negligible” in terms of being a public health threat, science says otherwise. Cumulative exposure to even low-dose radiation over the course of many months or even years can damage cells, DNA, and even hormone balance. This is why it is important to oppose DOE’s proposal to end the current moratorium on the reuse of radioactive waste metals.
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