A Utah industrial site is a major source of pollution

Recent reports from the Salt Lake Tribune have shed light on the extensive toxic chemical releases from the Bingham Canyon Mine, operated by Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation. This mine, one of the largest sources of toxic chemicals in the state, releases millions of pounds of arsenic, lead, selenium, mercury, and other harmful substances annually. These chemicals can cause severe health issues, including brain and nervous system damage, insomnia, and cancer.

Dr. Moench voiced his concerns about the mine’s impact on public health, “This is an operation that releases environmental toxins to the community and has done so for 120 years. The level of contamination steadily gets worse year by year.” He pointed out the difficulty in directly attributing specific health issues to these releases but affirmed their undeniable presence and impact.

The Salt Lake Tribune article cites a 2016 study that linked between 70% and 90% of cancer cases to behavior and environmental causes.

The compounding effect of exposure to multiple toxic chemicals is a significant concern. Dr. Moench explained, “A supposedly acceptable level of lead combined with an acceptable level of mercury combined with an acceptable level of cadmium is not acceptable. Not that it ever was.” The cumulative exposure to these toxins poses a severe risk to the health of Utah residents, particularly children. As another Tribune article on pollution from the mine points out, there’s no safe level of lead in blood for children.

Ongoing toxic releases from large industrial operations like the Bingham Canyon Mine, again, highlight the urgent need for stricter environmental and health regulations. The federal and Utah state governments must take more decisive action to protect residents from harmful pollution. Enhanced regulatory measures, stringent enforcement, and robust public health protections are essential to ensure a healthier future for all Utahns.

Salt Lake Tribune articles:
Utah has the fourth most toxic chemical releases of any state. The majority come from one source.

Here’s how toxic chemicals from facilities can harm Utahns — and how the biggest source is working to improve

KSL News coverage

Environmental Health News coverage

Health Risks of Chemicals Released from the Bingham Canyon Mine:

Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can have severe health effects even at low exposure levels. Chronic exposure to arsenic has been linked to skin cancer, bladder cancer, and lung cancer. Additionally, arsenic can cause skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes. The EPA recognizes no safe level of arsenic exposure, as even minimal amounts can pose significant health risks over time.

Lead exposure is particularly dangerous for children, as it can lead to developmental issues and cognitive impairments. According to the EPA, lead damages the brain and nervous system, leading to lower IQs, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems in children. In adults, lead exposure can cause high blood pressure, reproductive issues, and nerve disorders. The CDC states there is no safe level of lead in blood for children, emphasizing the critical need to minimize exposure.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that affects the brain and nervous system. Inhalation of mercury vapors can lead to severe health issues, including tremors, emotional changes, insomnia, neuromuscular changes, headaches, and cognitive dysfunction. Prolonged exposure can result in permanent damage to the central nervous system, particularly in developing fetuses and young children, making it a significant public health concern.

While selenium is an essential nutrient in small amounts, excessive exposure can be harmful. High levels of selenium can cause selenosis, a condition characterized by gastrointestinal distress, hair loss, white blotchy nails, and mild nerve damage. Long-term exposure to high selenium levels can also lead to more severe neurological and cardiovascular issues.

Cadmium is another highly toxic metal released by the Bingham Canyon Mine. Chronic exposure to cadmium can lead to kidney damage, bone demineralization, and lung diseases, including lung cancer. Cadmium also disrupts calcium metabolism, contributing to bone fractures and osteoporosis. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies cadmium as a human carcinogen.