Are New Mexico Environmentalists Lying About Cancer Statistics To Prevent Uranium Mining?
It is quite easy to scare a person. Just tell someone that they will get cancer for something. Bringing out rising cancer rates caused by what you do, for example what you eat, where you live, what chemicals you eat, etc., can be a great talk in the cafeteria. But, one must sort out his statistics and research before making a public judgment on the source of a cancer. If they want to be taken seriously. Environmentalists may have some secret statistics that are not generally available to the public, so they insist that uranium ISL (in situ leach extraction) projects “could” cause a spike in cancer rates.
We caught up with Joseph J. Kolb, editor and publisher of “The Gallup Herald,” to hear his thoughts on the proposed ISL uranium projects in the Gallup area. During the course of our conversation, Mr. Kolb made his views known. He then preserved those comments for posterity in an editorial published on November 13. Kolb preached, “Uranium mining in the reserve can and has adversely affected Gallup … There have also been stories of the disproportionately high rate of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer here. Researchers continue to study the possible correlation between the 1979 spill (Puerco River Valley Spill) and its effect on the local cancer rate “.
Kolb confided to us: “I know at least 15 women with breast cancer.” He also claimed to have researched cancer statistics through the New Mexico Department of the Environment and the American Cancer Society. In his mind, former transplant New Yorker Kolb blames Gallup’s cancer rate on a uranium tailings spill, which occurred in 1979. At one point during the conversation, Kolb admitted that he had previously thought that uranium mining might have been good for the local economy because of the royalties that such operations would yield. Along the way, he changed his mind.
It sounds very convincing, and perhaps Kolb’s readers bought into his editorial rhetoric. Dr. Charles Wiggins, director and principal investigator of the New Mexico Tumor Registry at the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Center, did not. He scoffed at Kolb’s claims, commenting, “A lot of people say these things, but when I go in and investigate, I invariably find out that they are wrong.” As an epidemiologist, Dr. Wiggins deals with the study of the causes of disease in populations.
Dr. Wiggins presented us with the latest report of cancers among Native American women in New Mexico. The incident rate, between 1998 and 2002, was 48 deaths per 100,000. The breast cancer death rate, throughout New Mexico during the same time period, was 110 per 100,000. In the mountainous states, which include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico, that rate rose to 119.4. For the entire western United States, the death rate stood at 128.8, roughly the range of the national average of 124.9. That was 260 percent higher than the breast cancer rate for American Indians in New Mexico, a group covered in this report. Hispanic women in New Mexico died of breast cancer at more than double that rate, during that time period.
A frequent lament about uranium mining, found in anti-nuclear propaganda, is the absolutely staggering rate of lung cancer deaths suffered by the Navajos. Having been influenced by that party line, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. banned uranium from the reserve last April. Statistics provided by Dr. Wiggins demonstrate that New Mexico Native Americans have one of the lowest lung cancer rates in the United States. Utah, a state with the lowest incidence of lung cancer deaths, has a more than 150 percent higher rate. Lung cancer death rates nationwide are more than 300 percent higher. White New Mexicans are more likely to die from lung cancer at a rate almost four times higher than Native Americans.
Dr. Wiggins downplayed the impact of uranium contamination or ionizing radiation as the rationale behind specific cancers. For example, when asked about “rising breast cancer rates,” she cited changes in a woman’s fertility (eg, birth control pills) and obesity as the main drivers. Wiggins said: “The highest incidence of breast cancer occurs in Long Island (New York) or Marin County (California) because the highest rates of breast cancer were found primarily among wealthy white people, not in Gallup, New Mexico. .
According to actual data from the University of New Mexico, the cancer statistics of American Indians are lower than those of Anglos and Hispanics. Dr. Wiggins explained, “Of the 50,000 to 60,000 Navajos living in New Mexico, Navajos have about half the cancer rate compared to Anglos and half the risk of developing cancer.” Dr. Wiggins also noted that Laguna Pueblo Indians living near the former Jackpile uranium mine have lower cancer rates compared to the rest of New Mexico. Dr. Wiggins agreed that the rate of kidney cancers had increased somewhat, but explained that it was due to the increase in diabetes and obesity, not from another source.
According to the National Cancer Registries Program, the range of ovarian deaths among women living in New Mexico is between 9.9 and 14.3 per 100,000, with an average rate of 11.9. The American Indian rate is 13.4, but the non-Hispanic white rate is 14.1. Nationally, the average for all races is 13.1. All statistics reported are for the year 2002. Dr. Wiggins’ research showed a rate of 13.4 among American Indian women during the period 1998 to 2002. The rate is neither alarming nor “disproportionately high” as suggested by Mr. Kolb. There are other states with higher rates of ovarian cancer among women, such as Montana, Washington, Nevada, Alabama, West Virginia, New Jersey, and New York. It is similar to the rate of ovarian cancer in the entire western United States, but still lower than in the northeastern United States.
In discussing cancer rate statistics, Craig Bartels, president of Hydro Resources, which hopes to begin ISL operations in New Mexico, also did his homework: “When you do the math, the Navajo cancer rate is about 30. % lower than the overall US rate among Navajos, 87.5 deaths out of 100,000 are cancer-related. In the United States, 125.6 deaths out of 100,000 are cancer-related. “
It is a disturbing experience to realize how easily radical environmentalists dismiss official and scientific statistics. In Albuquerque, we discussed the statistics from the University of New Mexico with Southwest Research and Information Center, SRIC, the office manager, Annette Aguayo, and the editor of their internal quarterly report, Voices from the Earth. Your response to our undercover editorial team? “Oh, those are government statistics. We don’t trust them.” His comments make one wonder where the New Mexico media, like editor / publisher Joseph Kolb, get their statistics from when they blame uranium mining for rising cancer rates. As Don Quixote sang in the musical Man of La Mancha, “Facts are enemies of truth.” Could this also apply to the data that SRIC has been providing to the local media and disseminating among the Navajos?
Joseph Kolb may have more problems in mind than uranium mining. Recently, the “Gallup Independent” reported on Kolb’s financial troubles. His weekly “Gallup Herald” continues to be sued and rack up printing bills. Since October, Intermountain Color, which won a judgment against Kolb’s newspaper for $ 61,425, has tried to pay off the debt. Albuquerque Publishing has filed a lawsuit against the Herald, seeking more than $ 27,000 in unpaid bills. Kolb is reported to owe nearly $ 11,000 to the “Navajo Times” for printing invoices.
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