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Oak Ridge Reservation: Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Releases
The Clinton Pile Building, later known as the Graphite Reactor, was located at the X-10 site, now referred to as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Releases

In 1942, the federal government established the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) as part of the Manhattan Project. The Y-12 plant, the K-25 site, and the S-50 site were created to enrich uranium. The X-10 site was developed to manufacture and separate plutonium. Uranium and plutonium isotope production, as well as other machining operations, required a large amount of electrical energy that used polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). During these operations and former waste disposal practices, oily PCB fluids were spilled onto the ground and released into nearby creeks and ponds.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a public health assessment to evaluate whether past and current exposures to ORR-related PCBs in air, nearby off-site waterways (Clinch River, East Fork Poplar Creek, Poplar Creek, Lower Watts Bar Reservoir, and the Tennessee River), and biota (fish, geese, and turtles) could cause harm. ATSDR concluded that exposures to ORR-related PCBs in air and in these off-site waterways are not a public health hazard. Based on an in-depth public health evaluation, however, ATSDR determined that it would be prudent public health practice to minimize exposure to PCBs by limiting consumption of certain species of fish. Additionally, ATSDR recommends that certain sensitive populations (pregnant women, women who might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and children) avoid eating particular species of fish from these water bodies.

  • All fish species are safe to eat in low amounts (up to one fish meal* per month).
  • Sunfish are safe to eat in any amount.
  • Largemouth bass are safe to eat in high amounts (three fish meals* per week) from Poplar Creek and the Lower Watts Bar Reservoir.
    • Adults can safely eat three meals* of largemouth bass from the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers.
    • Children can safely eat only one meal* of largemouth bass per week from the Clinch River and two meals* of largemouth bass per week from the Tennessee River.
  • Catfish, striped bass, white bass, and hybrid (striped bass-white bass) bass are safe to eat in low amounts from Poplar Creek, the Clinch River, the Tennessee River, and the Lower Watts Bar Reservoir.
    • Adults can safely eat one meal* per week of any of these fish.
    • Children can safely eat one meal* per month of any of these fish.
  • Canada goose muscle is safe to eat in any amount.
  • Turtle meat is safe to eat in any amount, but no one should eat turtle fat, turtle eggs, and turtle organs.

*One adult fish meal is considered to be 8 ounces (1/2 pound). Children were assumed to eat one-third as much as adults.

 Selected Resources

Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Releases – Public Comment Period (11, 06)
This public health assessment presents ATSDR's evaluation of exposures to PCB releases from the Oak Ridge Reservation. The public comment period gives members of the public an opportunity to review and comment on the findings and recommendations noted in the public health assessment. The public health assessment will be available for public comment and review through January 31, 2007.

PCB Releases – Community Health Concerns (PDF, 118 KB)
This section of the public health assessment presents community health concerns related to PCB releases from the Oak Ridge Reservation and provides ATSDR’s responses to them. The health concerns and responses are sorted by topic.

Tennessee Fishing Advisories (PDF, 740 KB)Exiting ATSDR Website
This information details the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's fishing advisories for various streams, rivers, and reservoirs in the state of Tennessee.

  Education & Training

PCBs Public Health Statement
This is a summary chapter from the toxicological profile for PCBs.

This fact sheet answers the most frequently asked health questions about PCBs.

PCBs Toxicological Profile
This ATSDR toxicological profile characterizes the toxicology of PCBs and provides information on adverse health effects associated with exposures to PCBs.

ATSDR's Case Studies in Environmental Medicine: Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Toxicity
Case Studies in Environmental Medicine is a series of self-instructional publications designed to increase the primary care provider’s knowledge of hazardous substances in the environment and to aid in the evaluation of potentially exposed patients.

What Is a Public Health Assessment?
This fact sheet explains that an ATSDR public health assessment reviews available information about hazardous substances at a site and evaluates whether exposures to them could be harmful.

This fact sheet answers questions about chemical exposures.

A Citizen's Guide to Risk Assessments and Public Health Assessments at Contaminated Sites
This document provides an overview of two different assessments commonly performed at hazardous waste sites: the risk assessment and the public health assessment. Both are required for all sites listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List (also known as "Superfund" sites).

Environmental and Occupational Medical Resources Fact Sheet
This fact sheet lists available medical resources for persons seeking medical assistance for an environment- or occupation-related illness or injury.

 Resources on Oak Ridge Reservation Health Effects
Education & Training Opportunities General Information DOE ORR Annual Site Environmental Reports (ASERs)
Fact Sheets   Questions & Answers   Presentations
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This page last updated on November 30, 2006
Questions? - Call the ATSDR Information Center toll free at 1-800-CDC-INFO, or e-mail.

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