Toxins From Abandoned Uranium Mine Likely Cause Of Mysterious “Sleeping Sickness” (VIDEO)

Earlier this month, Berdibek Saparabaev, deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan, announced that researchers discovered high levels of carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons escaping from the abandoned Krasnogorskiy uranium mine. The mine has long been suspected as the cause of a mysterious “sleeping sickness,” which has affected villagers living near it for the past three years.

A 2014 documentary on “Sleepy Hollow,” as the village is often referred to, brought the plight of residents living near the abandoned uranium mine to the international spotlight. Adults and children living in the shadows of the mine suddenly fall into a deep sleep. It happens at work or at school, even while driving a car, or biking down the road. They wake with no memory of what happened prior to falling asleep. Accompanying symptoms include headaches, nausea, confusion and dizziness.

Even pets are affected by the sleeping sickness. Dogs, cats and other animals simply go to sleep for hours at a time. Their owners report they are unable to wake them.

“The uranium mines were closed at some point, and at times a concentration of carbon monoxide occurs there,” Saparabaev said during a recent announcement.

“The oxygen in the air is reduced accordingly, which is the real reason for the sleeping sickness in these villages.”

The symptoms that villagers experience before, during and after episodes of “sleeping sickness” would seem to support the Kazakhstan government’s conclusions.

The Sleepy Hollow documentary, published by RT, gives a more detailed look at what’s been happening in one village, located near the abandoned uranium mine.

Closer to home, thousands of abandoned uranium mines are putting the health and safety of people living in the United States at risk. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “there are an estimated 15,000 uranium mines in 14 states in the West and Southwest. Seventy-five percent of the mines are on federal and tribal lands.” Many of these mines are now abandoned.

“It’s an overwhelming problem,” Clancy Tenley, EPA assistant director who was charged with overseeing abandoned uranium mines on western tribal lands, told New York University’s Scienceline reporters in 2010.

With more than 500 abandoned mines, and over 2000 contaminated sites, all located just in the western region of the Navajo Nation, concern is growing over what the long-term health consequences may be for those who live near the mines. According to Scienceline, “tailings, or waste products of uranium processing are still piled everywhere, and the land isn’t fenced off.”

A $14.5 million bankruptcy settlement was designated more than five years ago to assist with the clean-up process. Yet, according to the EPA’s website, as of March, the government was still in the assessment phase, and actual clean-up of many of these abandoned mines had yet to begin.

This map, published on the EPA’s website, shows the locations of the abandoned mines in the EPA’s Southwest Pacific region 9.

Image credit

Image credit

As Scienceline reported in 2010:

The mines expose Navajo Nation residents to uranium through airborne dust and contaminated drinking water. Many residents’ homes were built using mud and rocks near mines, and some of that building material is radioactive.

Very little research has been done regarding the possible health consequences for those living near these and other abandoned uranium mines. However, a rare condition known as “Navajo neuropathy” impacts only indigenous people who live in the vicinity of these abandoned uranium mines.

“For those suffering from the disease, limbs begin to tingle, then lose all sense of touch, and eventually appear curled as claws. Ultimately, the victim dies of liver failure. One study put the average age of death at 10. First described in medical literature in 1976, there is no cure.”

According to the National Library Of Medicine, “lethal concentrations of deadly gases can accumulate in underground mine passages, including carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and radon, an invisible and odorless radioactive gas.”

While Kazakhstan’s abandoned Krasnogorskiy mine appears to be the first documentation of abandoned mine-related “sleeping sickness,” carbon monoxide poisoning in and around mines has been documented for centuries.

The Krasnogorskiy mine was abandoned in the 1990’s. Scientists have yet to explain why they believe villagers are being affected by gasses rising to the surface more than 20 years later.

One thing is clear, abandoned uranium mines pose a severe risk to the health and safety of those who live near them. Whether in Kazakhstan or the U.S., the corporations that exploited the land, air and water to enrich themselves by mining on public and tribal lands are nowhere to be found, now that the profits have dried up. In the aftermath, it’s the public who pays the price, both in terms of tax dollars and human suffering, as the final costs and public health consequences continue to add up.

*Featured image credit: video screen capture via RT on YouTube