Protect Vulnerable NM Communities: Halt Radioactive Tritium Release from LANL

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As friends and allies of Pueblo and land-based Peoples who live downwind and downstream from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), we are extremely concerned about the lab’s intentions to go forward with releasing radioactive tritium vapor in April 2020 -- particularly at this time when these communities are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Now in addition to the disconnect that people are experiencing from social distancing, LANL is inflicting mental harm as families worry about the safety of their loved ones spending time outside.

We call on all of our Congressional delegation, EPA and NMED directors to put an immediate halt and suspension to these planned tritium releases and increase in LANL plutonium pit production for the following reasons:

  • Tritium can be a radiation hazard when inhaled or ingested in food or water or absorbed through the skin. Tritium easily bonds with oxygen to form radioactive (or “tritiated”) water that living organisms (including fetuses) can uptake. Tritium can also cross placental boundaries. 
  • In addition, nearly all atmospherically released tritium gas is rapidly converted into tritiated water and thus can enter the food chain.
  • Mid-April is when land-based communities adjacent to LANL are outdoors for longer periods of time preparing their fields and gardens for planting. What will it mean to have cumulative exposure when people consume these crops?
  • Because of the school shutdown due to COVID-19, we are all spending more time outdoors. Some of us live 20 minutes away from these planned releases, and now in addition to an already stressful self-quarantine there is added worry about our children and families spending time outside. 

There should not be a rush to put our communities in harm’s way when all solutions have not even been discussed. Federal standards for tritium exposure, based on an obsolete model of an adult, white male of European descent, are not protective of land-based people of color, or pregnant families and infants who are more at risk of radioactive toxicity. 

We, the undersigned, demand a halt to the planned April venting of radioactive tritium, and an informed public process that prioritizes protecting those most vulnerable.

Pueblo and other communities in proximity to LANL (including the city of Española) have been placed in an extremely vulnerable position with COVID-19. With all the unknowns we are currently facing related to COVID-19, we demand a reprieve and halting of the release of radioactive tritium. Our communities deserve to be given every opportunity to have clean air and water, and health and wellness in these challenging times. To go forward with this proposal is a reckless endangerment of people who are already dealing with so many environmental and health challenges.

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