Friday, January 24, 2014

Radiation poisoning

In 1975 Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto set up its Rössing uranium mine. It needed a place to house its black workforce so it built Arandis in Namibia. Arandis is still the home of the workers, but has lost the financial support of the company. It looks like it is doomed to decay.

Many men who worked in the mine's early days claim to suffer from severe illnesses including cancers, hypertension and anaemia.  Hoseas Gaomab, worked in the mine's laboratory for 23 years. He knows many men who have died. But he doesn't know why.  Gaomab is sick, too. He suffers from a disease that has made his legs and hands numb for the much of the past 20 years. It simply didn't occur to Gaomab that his illness could be work-related. Then, in 1993, a medical student named Reinhard Zaire arrived, interviewing miners and taking blood samples. "He asked us how long we worked for Rössing and when we got sick. Then he called us together to tell us we were irradiated."

He concluded that there was an increased risk for uranium miners to develop malignant diseases such as cancer. Shortly after the report was published, Zaire was dismissed by the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services, his research permission was revoked, and he was accused of practising as a medical doctor illegally. Rio Tinto slammed Zaire's report.
 "To date, there have been no confirmed occupational illness related deaths," said Rio Tinto spokesperson
There are no records available from the company of what happens to workers once they leave Rössing. After their retirement, the men return to their homes in rural Namibia, where they rarely have access to proper healthcare facilities.

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