Medical results: No adverse effects for residents near ash spill

Medical screenings: No adverse effects for residents near TVA ash spill

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HARRIMAN (WATE) - Medical screening results released Tuesday for more than 200 residents concerned about the 2008 ash spill at TVA's Kingston plant revealed no adverse effects.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities, in partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, completed the initial round of screenings in April.

More than 200 people opted to be screened at no cost. About half of them lived within two miles of the spill.

The medical evaluation included: a Health history, a physical examination, a breathing test (spirometry), a chest x-ray, urinalysis, a complete blood count and blood chemistry and biological monitoring tests.

Some residents originally said they had symptoms of upper airway irritation, such as runny noses, coughing and congestion.

The examinations found that most participants were normal, and abnormalities or variations were primarily due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Urine and/or blood tests were done for levels of: aluminum, arsenic, barium, beryllium, chromium, cobalt, copper, nickel, selenium, thallium and vanadium.

Some participants had above normal levels for:

  • 8.3 percent for copper
  • 3.0 percent for aluminum
  • 0.5 percent for chromium
  • 27 percent for selenium

The report says everyone who had repeat tests for selenium after changes in diet and vitamin supplements showed normal or close to normal values.

Ed Lineberger had his family tested for heavy metals several months before he and his wife were screened by ORAU. Mayo Clinic results showed an elevated level of chromium and the presence of barium. However, his ORAU results show everything in normal range, and in some cases no heavy metal presence at all.

"We don't know what will happen 20, 30 years from now," Lineberger said after the reports were released. "We don't know who to believe. Do you believe the Mayo Clinic or do you believe ORAU?"

"Because there are no studies on the long-term health effects of fly ash exposure, results of the evaluation provide a valuable baseline for future medical evaluations," said Dr. Donna Cragle, ORAU vice president of occupational exposure and worker health.

"A repeat evaluation of the people who participated in the program could determine whether there has been any change in their health that may be related to the fly ash spill," Dr. Cragle added.

The participants ranged from less than a year old to 89. Fifty-six percent of the population was between 18 and 65.

Officials say those being screened were almost equally divided between male and female.

The results report has no information that identifies anyone personally. It's made up of statistical data that shows results of the screening population as a whole.

TVA had a $1.43 million contract with ORAU for the health screenings.

Officials also held an open house Tuesday on the campus of Roane State Community College.

Lawsuits seeking damages from the ash spill are set to go to trial on Sept. 13 before U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan in Knoxville.

A series of dikes at the Kingston Fossil Plant collapsed on Dec. 22, 2008,, spewing an estimated 5.4 million cubic yards of ash and sludge into nearby homes and farmland.

Some of the debris also went into the Emory River. Officials re-opened the river in May as the recovery effort continues.

The EPA approved TVA's cleanup plan in May for the next phase of coal ash removal at the site.

The plan requires TVA to permanently store on site all the ash being removed from the Swan Pond Embayment, which includes land and bodies of water next to the ash disposal area.

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