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Abandoned Sierra Nevada Mines Could Pose Health Risks

Abandoned mines in the Sierra Nevada could be posing health problems for recreational visitors. The Sierra Fund, a Nevada City environmental group, released those findings Tuesday in Sacramento.

The abandoned mines are relics of the gold rush, and according to the Sierra Fund, those same mines are potential public health disasters. Many off-roaders and horse back riders use the mine areas around Nevada City, and the Sierra Fund’s Elizabeth Martin said tests show some of those trails are contaminated with asbestos, arsenic and lead.

“It’s sort of like having your children ride their equipment or their horse through toxic air particles,” said Martin,” which not only have lead and arsenic absorbing into their blood, but also actually shards or fibers of asbestos lodged into their lungs.


Asbestos can cause a form of lung cancer, while lead and arsenic are deadly at high levels. Martin is asking the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees many of these areas, to further study the soil and post signs outlining the risks. The U.S. Forest Service did not return calls for comment.