Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez testified before the House Judiciary Committee during a discussion of Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
About three decades ago, Congress tried to address a growing concern about the health problems caused by uranium exposure during the U.S. nuclear weapons buildup.
The act covered uranium miners and people who lived close to test sites, known as downwinders.
But Nez and others testified that the act has fallen short of its goals, and should be extended beyond 2022, when it is set to expire. He said there are hundreds of abandoned mines in the Navajo Nation.
“Once the Cold War ended and the federal government no longer needed uranium ore to produce nuclear weapons, all of these mines were abandoned,” Nez said.
Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton testified that lower Mojave County, which is downwind from Nevada testing sites, was not covered by the act.
Stanton said that people who lived there thought it was normal to be diagnosed with cancer in their 30s and 40s.