outlasting the current U.S. regulations for oversight of processing facility tailings.
• Radionuclides are not the only uranium mining- and processing-associated occupational exposures with potential adverse human health effects; two other notable inhalation risks are posed by silica dust and diesel exhaust. Neither of these is specific to uranium mining, but both have been prevalent historically in the uranium mining and processing industry. Of particular importance is the body of evidence from occupational studies showing that both silica and diesel exhaust exposure increase the risk of lung cancer, the main risk also associated with radon decay product exposure. Thus, workers in the uranium mining and processing industry can be co-exposed to several separate lung carcinogens, including radon decay products, silica, and diesel. To the extent that cigarette smoking poses further risk in absolute terms, there is potential for increased disease, including combined effects that are more than just additive. Moreover, because manual workers and lower socioeconomic status (SES) groups in the United States generally have higher rates of smoking, work-related lung cancer in uranium miners and processors may be related to socioeconomic status such that those with lower SES could comprise a particularly vulnerable subset of the population.
• Although uranium mining-specific injury data for the United States were not available for review, work-related physical trauma risk (including electrical injury) is particularly high in the mining sector overall and this could be anticipated to also apply to uranium mining. In addition, hearing loss has been a major problem in the mining sector generally, and based on limited data from overseas studies, may also be a problem for uranium mining.
• A number of other exposures associated with uranium mining or processing, including waste management, also could carry the potential for adverse human health effects, although in many cases the detailed studies that might better elucidate such risks are not available. For example, some of the materials used in this industry may be potential sensitizers that could cause asthma. Many of these exposures have not have been adequately evaluated in animal or human studies.
• Assessing the potential risks of multiple combined exposures from uranium mining and processing activities is not possible in practical terms, even though the example of multiple potential lung carcinogen exposures in uranium mining and processing underscores that this is more than a theoretical concern.