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Oak Ridge Reservation: State of Tennessee Public Health Activities
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Oak Ridge Health Studies

To evaluate the potential health effects that residents living near the reservation might have as a result of contaminants released from the Oak Ridge Reservation, the Tennessee Department of Health entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for an Oak Ridge Reservation health study project.

The Oak Ridge Health Studies are independent state evaluations of contaminants released from DOE's Oak Ridge Reservation since its creation. The Tennessee Department of Health directed the studies, which were funded by DOE at a cost of approximately $14 million. The studies assessed the contaminants released from the X-10 site, now referred to as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; the Y-12 weapons plant now referred to as the Oak Ridge Reservation Nuclear Materials Production Plant; and the K-25 site known as the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant and renamed East Tennessee Technology Park.

The Oak Ridge Health Studies were conducted in two parts. Phase I was a dose reconstruction feasibility study that evaluated all past releases from the reservation. This phase of the study evaluated the available information and data on past releases and the exposure pathways of those releases. The information gathered was then analyzed to determine which contaminants might be of priority public health concern and whether it would be feasible to conduct studies that would reconstruct the releases of these contaminants. The purpose of this analysis was to estimate the potential exposure to the contaminants that might have been experienced by people living near the site at the time the contaminants were released.

The Phase I dose reconstruction feasibility study identified five substances to be studied further in Phase II dose reconstruction analyses:

  • Radioactive iodine
  • Mercury
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Radionuclides released to White Oak Creek
  • Uranium

In addition, Phase II dose reconstruction analyses included more detailed assessments and estimates of the potential past exposure and risk to those contaminants that might have been experienced by persons living off the reservation but near the site at the time the contaminants were released.

The Tennessee Department of Health entered into the agreement with DOE to conduct the Oak Ridge Health Studies in 1991. The studies were released in 2000. Details of the studies and the results obtained may be reviewed at the Oak Ridge Health Studies Web site.Exit ATSDR's server

Mercury Pilot Survey

An earlier survey evaluating mercury contamination was conducted by the state of Tennessee in 1983, in cooperation with CDC's National Center for Environmental Health. This survey documented body levels of mercury in Oak Ridge residents and assessed the immediate health risk to persons exposed to mercury-contaminated soil and fish. The survey was conducted in response to community members' concerns about mercury contamination, especially in the East Fork Poplar Creek floodplain. Results indicated that residents and workers were not likely to be at increased risk for significantly high mercury levels.

Health Statistics Review

The Tennessee Department of Health conducted a health statistic review in 1992 to compare cancer incidence rates for 1988–1990 for counties surrounding the Oak Ridge Reservation with the rates for the entire state of Tennessee. The department also conducted a health statistics review in 1994 that compared the mortality rates for 1980–1992 of counties surrounding the reservation with the rates for the entire state. The reviews concluded that some rates were high and some low compared to the state rates, but that no patterns related to the site were identified.

Report on the Toxic Substances Control Act Incinerator

Studies were conducted at the East Tennessee Technology Park to evaluate DOE's Toxic Substances Control Act Incinerator. A 1997 Governor of Tennessee Independent Panel Report concluded that the incinerator facility and operating conditions were in accordance with the facility's permit. Few operating violations had occurred, and the amount of waste actually burned was but a small fraction of the volume allowed. The highest concentrations measured by the site monitors were significantly lower than permissible levels.

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This page last updated on February 16, 2005
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