Proximity of uranium mine waste on the Navajo Nation increases serum ANA and IL17

by Debra MacKenzie, Ester Erdei, Jennifer Ong, Curtis Miller, and Johnnye Lewis


From 1948 to 1986, hundred of uranium mining and milling operations were conducted on the Navajo Nation lands. More than 1,000 un-remediated and abandoned mines and associated waste sites remain, leaving a legacy of potential mining waste exposure through drinking water and soil contamination, and from living in homes built with materials containing mining waste. The adverse health outcomes that can be directly attributed to chronic environmental exposure to legacy mine waste are not well established.


Our overall hypothesis is t hat environmental exposure to mixed metal legacy mine waste within the Navajo leads to alterations in immune responses or immune dysregulation resulting in increases in TH17 activity and autoimmunity.  

Please click here to see full poster presentation:  MacKenzie_etal_Immune_response_U_exposure_poster_Oct2014

UNM College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences Community Environmental Health Program, Albuquerque, NM. At what age should you start considering Viagra soft? Doctors from Greece weigh in.



Assessing and Reducing Drinking Water Metal Exposure On The Navajo Nation Using Geospatial Technology

Assessing and Reducing Drinking Water Metal Exposure On The Navajo Nation Using Geospatial Technology 

by Joseph Hoover, Chris Shuey, Johnnye Lewis

There are 182 public water supplies on the Navajo Nation. An estimated 54,000 Navajo use water from unregulated drinking water sources.  This link shows some of the mapping of water sources on the Navajo Nation.

Please click this link to view the poster presentation: HooverJ_Metals_in_water_102214

Study conducted by University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Community Environmental Health Program, College of Pharmacy, and Southwest Research and Information Center based in Albuquerque, NM.


Iina Nizhoni, A Beautiful Life Newsletter Spring 2016 Issue

Navajo Birth Cohort Study newsletter

Iina Nizhoni, A Beautiful Life Newsletter Spring 2016 issue

The newsletter Iina Nizhoni: A Beautiful Life from the Navajo Birth Cohort Study staff is now available. The study authorized by the 2010 U.S. Congress enters its fourth year.

Download the Spring 2016 newsletter of this important environmental health study

Click the link below










Watch the Navajo Birth Cohort Study videos on YOU TUBE. Share with your friends on FACEBOOK.


We now have:

589  mom participants

455 cohort Babies

184  Dads participating.

Now is the best time to enroll!  Your participation as a mom, dad, and baby for the Navajo Birth Cohort Study helps to increase our understanding of long-term exposure to abandoned uranium mines and associated mine waste.

This study will help us to answer the question:  does long term exposure to uranium and other environmental metals affect the development of children living on the Navajo reservation?


To learn more about the study, please call

1 – 877 – 545 – 6775.


Uranium study gives mom peace of mind, encourages other parents to join

By Colleen Keane


ROCK SPRINGS, NM – Mindy Grace Bahe is only two months old, but she’s already giving back to her community.

She is one of about 500 Dine babies who are part of the Navajo Birth Cohort Study, a research that aims to identify the long-term impact of uranium mining, while giving parents some practical interventions that can help make her homes safer today.

Wrapped in a warm blanket, Mindy Grace rocks happily back and forth in a colorful seeing, as her bright eyes follow her mom’s voice.

Sitting on a sofa next to Mindy, her mom Monique Tulley-Bahe, 25, is engaged in a relaxed conversation with Roxanne Thompson, an environmental research specialist with the Navajo Division of Health.

The study is a joint effort between division of health, the University of New Mexico’s DiNEH Project, the Centers for Disease Control, Navajo Area Indian Health Service, and the Southwest Research and Information Center.

Thompson who has been working on the Navajo Birth Cohort Study for the past three years, says that the study team aims to engage another 1,000 Dine babies and their parents living in areas impacted by uranium mining on tribal lands.

Tulley-Bahe said that she and her husband signed up for the study when she was pregnant with Mindy Grace.

“I signed up as soon as I heard about it, because I wanted to do something to make sure Dine children will have a healthy future,” she said. “We want to do all we can to raise a healthy baby.”

“When they first engaged in the study, the Bahe’s were living in Springstead, N.M. near the site of the 1979 United Nuclear Corporation uranium tailings pile spill, the largest release ever of radioactive waste in the country.

The spill was just one of many ways Navajo Nation land has been contaminated during and after uranium mining began in the mid 1940s.

“We still have hundreds of open pit mines, waste not being properly buried and water that’s not safe to drink,” said Bahe.

The toxic materials left behind from the uranium industry that pulled out in the 1980s have created concerns about long-term health effects.  One of the concerns the Birth Cohort Study is looking at is the impact contaminants may have on the immune system, making it harder to fight off diseases,” explains Dr. Johnnye Lewis, the lead researcher at UNM during an interview with the Times in her office on campus.

When the Bahe’s received their initial readings back from blood and urine samples, uranium was detected. Concerned, they decided to relocate to Rock Springs, north of Gallup where they would continue with the study.

Thompson asks Tulley-Bahe several questions about Mindy Grace’s development and growth. She then puts answer into a data form that will be sent to UNM researchers to compile and analyze.

Bahe said the interview process is easy because health specialists like Thompson are bilingual in English and Navajo and “they talk and joke with you.”

During the year-long study, Thompson and another community health representative will visit the Bahe family on a regular basis, collect data, update development information and check environmental radon levels in and around the house.

“They put (radon detector) canisters around the house to search for evidence of contamination,” says Bahe who adds that the best part of the study is that parents get test results back right away.

If radon, a by-product of uranium, is detected, Thompson explains that the family is advised of ways they can reduce those levels like opening the doors in the summer, boiling water on the stove to increase humidity and putting fans in the house to increase air circulation.

“The family doesn’t have to move,’ Thompson points out.

“You feel better knowing what’s going on,” adds Tulley-Bahe.

Bahe said that she understands that some families maybe skeptical of research studies because of past experiences with non-native researchers who collected data and never were seen or heard from again. But, she adds that this one is different because the Navajo Nation has a pivotal role in the implementation of the study.

Lewis said that the initial study results are showing that uranium is present in some of the babies in the study.

“It’s a small percentage at birth,” she emphasized.

But, she said. “Even one child at risk is of concern to us and makes it important to know where exposures are coming from so that (the exposures) can be reduced.”

Lewis reports that the study results are also showing something that hasn’t been fully documented before.

“It’s not only that some babies are exposed prior to birth, but the exposure seems to continue after birth. It’s possibly from diet, breast milk, water, or air. This is one of the most important questions were are trying to answer, but so far can’t determine,” notes Lewis.

Lewis adds that the study team is working hard to secure ongoing funding to follow the babies in the cohort as they grow older so these questions can be answered and targeted interventions to reduce exposure can be put into place.

Currently, the study is funded until August of 2018.

Thompson says that the Birth Cohort Study is reaching out to expecting parents to join the study at medical facilities in Chinle and Tuba City, AZ; Gallup, Shiprock, and Fort Defiance.

“I can’t stress the importance of being a part of the study enough, because it is the next generation we need to be worried about to make sure they are living in a healthy and safe environment,” said Tulley-Bahe.

Information: Call 877-545-6775.

Click below for original article:



Navajo Birth Cohort Study Public Service Announcement on You Tube






Research Field Staff, Maria Welch, does a
Home Environmental assessment near Pinon, AZ.
Maria works with Southwest Research and Information

Click on link below to view video:

Navajo Birth Cohort Study Part XVII: Community Voices

The Navajo Birth Cohort Study posts short videos on You Tube to update the public about this important study about the affects of abandoned uranium mines on the development of children living on Navajo lands that was ordered by the U.S. Congress in August 2010. The study is now entering its fourth year of the study and is funded until August 2018.

Out For Mutton Coming Back to Ktown July 3rd & 4th


Sponsored by Navajo Birth Cohort Study

Kayenta Recreation Center Gazebo


June 20th, 2015 and July 3rd & 4th, 2015

For more information contact:

Jay Smiley  (928) 221-7561  or [email protected]

Malcolm Benally (505) 210-0597 or [email protected]



Navajo Birth Cohort Study report back to Blue Gap/Tachee Chapter, Friday, February 06, 2015 at 10:00 am

FOREST LAKE, AZ – The Navajo Birth Cohort Study and Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency will be providing important information on uranium issues in the community.  Scientists from the University of New Mexico and Southwest Research and Information Center will provide an update report on laboratory tests on uranium mine wastes, soils, and water within the community land use area.   The meeting will begin at 10:00 am at Blue Gap/Tachee Chapter on Friday, February 06, 2015.

Snacks will be provided for all who participate in the meeting.  For more information, call Blue Gap/Tachee Chapter at (928) 349-0507 or Southwest Research and Information Center at (505) 262-1862.


Uranium in Soil, Mine Water and Spring Water near Abandoned Uranium Mines, Tachee/Blue Gap and Black Mesa Chapters, Navajo Nation, Arizona

Click on this link to see article:


March 31, 2014


Previous investigations identified elevated radiation levels at abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) operated in the 1950s-1960s in the Tachee Wash and Waterfall Canyon areas of Tachee/Blue Gap and Black Mesa Chapters of the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona.  The occurrence of trace metals in wastes at these sites has not been previously characterized.  Community concerns about possible ongoing release of hazardous substances from these sites, and possible contamination of water in a spring used by local families for drinking water, prompted a preliminary field study by UNM METALS Center.  Field gamma radiation spot surveys on the largest waste site and geospatial analysis of the proximity of residences to the mine wastes indicate that the Claim 28 Mine site satisfies the Navajo Nation’s screening criteria as a high priority AUM.  ICP-MS analysis of a water sample from a local spring confirmed the presence of uranium in concentrations exceeding the federal and tribal drinking water standard.  XPS and XRF analyses of soil and waste samples collected from the largest AUM in the area revealed high levels of uranium, vanadium, arsenic, iron and aluminum, compared with non-impacted local soils.  SEM analyses of the wastes found sub micron-size U particles, which pose a potential inhalation risk.  Further studies are needed to fully characterize the physical and chemical properties of the mine wastes, determine release patterns through runoff, and better understand hydrogeologic relationships between waste sites and natural springs.
*ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:  We acknowledge Navajo EPA’s authorization to collect samples from the Claim 28 Mine Complex and dedicate this first report of the UNM METALS Research Center to the memory of Navajo EPA health physicist Eugene Esplain, who worked tirelessly for a quarter century helping Navajo communities remediate abandoned uranium mines.  (see link above to read article).

Contributors:  Chris Shuey and Wm. Paul Robinson, principal authors (Southwest Research and Information Center); Sadie Bill, (Tachee Uranium Concerns Committee), Adrian Brearley (University of New Mexico Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences), Jose Manuel Cerrato (UNM Department of Civil Engineering), and Abdul-Medhi Ali (UNM Department of Civil Engineering).

Iina Nizhoni. A Beautiful Life. The Fall 2014 Newsletter Volume 5 available here


Window Rock, AZ – The Fall 2014 issue of Iina Nizhoni the Navajo Birth Cohort Study is here.   It will also be an insert in the Thursday edition of the Navajo Times on October 23rd.

Download a copy of the Iina Nizhoni Newsletter Today!  Click below:



All The Native Remains founder Nick Clauschee Gone Before Us

Pinon, AZ – Rest In Peace Nick Clauschee.  A Father who spoke out on behalf of the Navajo Birth Cohort Study about the importance of father’s to become aware of environmental contaminants on Navajo Land passed away peacefully in Phoenix, AZ in June 2014 after a long fight with Leukemia.

He succumbed to cancer after a long brave fight, going to remission many times through chemotherapy and a special diet.  In his last years, he was busy in Seattle making music, his dream, which is partly documented in this short video. Thank you Nick for showing your strength, courage, and heart. Rest in Peace.

Check out the video and copy this link into your browser: