The Untold Side of Uranium: Using a Statistical Analysis of the Continuous NHANES to Explore the Decline in Reproductive Health of the Navjao Population

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Adrienne Ettinger
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Currently, there are over 1,000 abandoned uranium mines speckling all 27,400 square miles of the Navajo Reservation, as well as abandoned mills. Neither of these structures, used as a means to secure a vast nuclear supply of uranium during the Cold War, were properly shut down when the uranium market began to decline in the 1980s. As a result, uranium and uranium tailings were free to roam the land as water and air carried them across the Reservation. Now the Navajo population, previously thought immune to cancer, is experiencing reproductive cancers and birth defects at an alarming rate. Although there are many in the community that believe the leetso, translated as the yellow monster in Navajo, is to blame for this trend, many others blame obesity and other lifestyle factors in the population. The lack of consensus fragments the power to bring environmental justice to the Navajo; thus, through the analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the association between uranium and reproductive health was investigated in the national population to help add to growing body of knowledge. The target population for this analysis is women between the ages of 20 and 54. In the logistic regression, it was found that period irregularity and endometriosis had a statistically significant association with uranium in certain models. Moreover, success of births and age of endometriosis diagnosis decreased with increasing exposure to uranium and were also statistically significant associations in certain models. Despite the many limitations, it is clear that relationship between uranium and reproductive health cannot be easily dismissed and its continued investigation will be incredibly valuable for the Navajo nation.