Fluoride Action Network

Fed study finds no public threat from Oak Ridge releases

Source: Fred Munger | January 13th, 2009
Industry type: Nuclear Industry

A public health assessment by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded there were “no public health hazards” from airborne releases at the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (also known as the K-25 Site) and the early-era S-50 facility at the Oak Ridge site.

The full report is available online [http://www.fluoridealert.org/oakridge.dec08.hra.pdf] and at local libraries. The agency is receiving public comment through Feb. 20.

In a release distributed to the news media, the ATSDR said:

“The study looked at the atmospheric releases of radioactive and nonradioactive hazardous substances from the K-25/ S-50 facilities between 1944 and 1995 when the facility closed. After evaluating potential chronic and acute exposure to ionizing radiation and uranium releases, ATSDR found those doses were not expected to cause adverse health effects for people living near the ORGDP. The ORGDP is currently known as the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP).

“Similarly, ATSDR looked at doses of fluoride and hydrogen fluoride released into the atmosphere either accidentally or in controlled releases during routine maintenance. ATSDR found potential chronic (long-term) exposures to fluoride and hydrogen fluoride were not a public health hazard for people living near the ORGDP. Hydrogen fluoride is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process.

“Because sufficient historical data on these releases do not exist, ATSDR scientists developed a worst-case scenario using records from a September 1, 1958 accidental release and mathematical dispersion modeling to evaluate the acute (short-term) exposure to hydrogen fluoride. Because of the high uncertainty of the estimated concentrations of these substances, ATSDR was unable to arrive at any conclusions about the true nature of any acute (short-term) health hazards from potential exposures to hydrogen fluoride…

“ATSDR’s investigation indicates no potential current or future hazards to off-site residents have been identified, but the site remediation continues. ATSDR recommends DOE continue to take precautionary measures to prevent any off-site releases of contaminants remaining at the ETTP.”

The ATSDR has conducted a series of public health assessments in recent years based on information available on the historic release of pollutants from Oak Ridge facilities. Some worker and citizen advocacy groups have criticized the agency’s work for not identifying more health concerns.