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PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT

Community Exposures to the 1965 and 1970 Accidental Tritium Releases

LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY, MAIN SITE (USDOE)
LIVERMORE, ALAMEDA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA


APPENDIX 2: DESCRIPTION OF RASCAL AIR DISPERSION MODEL AND ASSUMPTIONS

The Radiological Assessment System for Consequence Analysis (RASCAL) 3.0 is the latest version of a computer model designed for the assessment of radiological accidents developed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The relevant components of the RASCAL model for this analysis use Gaussian models to describe the atmospheric dispersion of radioactive effluents from nuclear facilities. Theoretical description of the model components are presented in the RASCAL users guide (NRC 2001). RASCAL input information for the 1970 and 1965 dispersion analyses are presented in Tables A-1 and A-2, respectively.

Tritium from both accidents was released as hydrogen gas (HT) from a 30 m stack. The 1970 release occurred at 5:49 am on August 6, 1970. During the time of the accident, the wind was from the southwest (~200º) at a speed of 1-2 m/sec (2.2-4.5 mph) with stable to very stable atmospheric conditions (Pasquill-Turner Stability Classes E or F). This stability classification is derived from tables in "Air-EIA: Air quality technical data: atmospheric stability" (http://www.ess.co.at/AIR-EIA/stability.html) using known wind speeds and assuming no incoming solar radiation based on the time of day (6:00-7:00 AM).

Information on the specifics of the 1970 accidental release (Myers et al. 1971) was used to describe the 1970 release source information (Table A-1). The source information includes the total amount of tritium released (300 kCi), the time and duration of the release event (30 minutes; August 6, 1970; 05:49 am Pacific time zone). Myers et al. (1971) indicates that the effective plume height, which includes stack height plus plume rise, is 45 m. RASCAL calculates plume rise from stack and release parameters (Tables A-1 and A-2).

Analytical results from the RASCAL model consist of a variety of tabular and graphical output. RASCAL provides both instantaneous deposition rates (Ci/m2/sec) and cumulative surface concentrations (Ci/m2). The instantaneous air concentrations (Table A-3), which are used to estimate direct HT inhalation doses, are derived from the instantaneous deposition rates by dividing by the RASCAL default deposition velocity. Cumulative HT concentrations (Tables A-4 and A-5), which are used to estimate HT deposition, are obtained by dividing the cumulative surface concentrations by the default deposition velocity. These calculations are required because RASCAL does not allow the deposition velocity to be changed, and the default value, which is based on particle deposition, is not appropriate for HT. Cumulative HT air concentrations are obtained for any location in units of Curies/meter3. In order to obtain the amount of HT deposited on soil, the above output is multiplied by the HT deposition velocity (with a 10th percentile value of 4.0e-4 meters per second (m/sec) and a 90th percentile value of 1.2e-3 m/sec (as discussed in section 3).

The RASCAL model provides a reasonable estimate of the initial dispersion of the HT plume from the LLNL tritium facility stack. The dispersion of this plume occurs over a relatively short time frame (~30 minutes) and runs with a minimum of required meteorological data observations (see Tables A-1 and A-2). However, the RASCAL model cannot predict dispersion from areal sources such as the dispersion of HTO from soil. Appendix 3 describes the ISC model that is used to estimate the concentration of the HTO from the soil.

Table A-1. Input Summary of RASCAL Analysis for 1970 LLNL Release

Case Summary
Event Type Other Radioactive Material Releases
Location
    Name:
    City, county, state:
    Elevation:
    Latitude, longitude:
    Time zone:
LLNL Main Site
Livermore, Alameda, CA
160 m
37.0 N, 121.0 W
Pacific
Source Term
    Type:
    Sample ID:
    Sample rate units:

    Period start:

    Period stop:

    H-3
Isotopic Rates
LLNL Tritium Facility
kCi/min

08/06/70
05:49
08/06/70
06:19
1.00E+01
Release Pathway
    Type:
    Release point:
    Stack height:
    Plume rise:
    Flow Rate:
    Stack Diameter:
    Temperature:

    Release timings
      To atmosphere start:
      To atmosphere duration:
Direct to Atmosphere
Isolated stack
30. m
Computed
18000. ft3/min
1.2 m
70. ºF


08/06/1970 05:49
0 days, and 00:30
Meteorology
    Type:
    Data set name:
    Data set desc:
Actual Observations
LLNL 1970
Station 1 Dir=200 Spd=1.5 Stab=E Precp=N
 
Summary of data at release point: Type Dir deg Speed m/s Stability class Precip Temp ºF RH %
08/06/1970 06:00 Obs 200 1.5 E None 60 50
Calculations
    Case description:
    End of calculations:
    Distance of calculation:
    Close-in distances:
LLNL 1970 Stability E w/plume rise
08/08/1970 05:49
Close-in + to 10 miles
0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 miles
08/06/1970 06:00 Obs 200 1.5 B None 70 50


Table A-2. Input Summary of RASCAL Analysis for 1965 LLNL Release

Case Summary
Event Type Other Radioactive Material Releases
Location
    Name:
    City, county, state:
    Elevation:
    Latitude, longitude:
    Time zone:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, Alameda, CA
140 m
37.0 N, 121.0 W
Pacific
Source Term
    Type:
    Sample ID:
    Sample rate units:

    Period start:

    Period stop:

    H-3
Isotopic Rates
<undefined>
Ci/s

01/20/65
15:25
01/20/65
15:55
1.94E+02
Release Pathway
    Type:
    Release point:
    Stack height:
    Plume rise:
    Flow Rate:
    Stack Diameter:
    Temperature:

    Release timings
      To atmosphere start:
      To atmosphere duration:
Direct to Atmosphere
Isolated stack
30. m
Computed
18000. ft3/min
1.2 m
70. ºF


01/20/1965 15:25
0 days, and 00:30
Meteorology
    Type:
    Data set name:
    Data set desc:
Actual Observations
LLNL 1965
Station 1 Dir=200 Spd=3 Stab=B Precp=Unknown
 
Summary of data at release point: Type Dir deg Speed kts Stability class Precip Temp ºF  
01/20/1965 15:00 Obs 240 7.0 B   52  
01/20/1965 16:00 Obs 240 7.0 B   52  
Calculations
    Case description:
    End of calculations:
    Distance of calculation:
    Close-in distances:
LLNL 1965 Accident
01/20/1965 21:25
Close-in + to 10 miles
0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 miles

Miles\degrees  10 20 30
0.25 9.40E-12 3.57E-06 9.40E-12
0.50 2.94E-09 9.63E-04 2.94E-09
0.75 9.47E-09 2.99E-03 9.47E-09
1.0 1.32E-08 4.10E-03 1.32E-08
1.50 1.33E-08 4.07E-03 1.33E-08
2 1.01E-08 3.07E-03 1.01E-08
3 4.33E-09 1.31E-03 4.33E-09
4 1.67E-09 5.00E-04 1.67E-09
Table A-3. Maximum instantaneous HT concentrations (Ci/m3) during plume passage (August 6, 1970; 15 minutes after the initial release). 20º column is the centerline of the plume.

 Miles\degrees 10° 20° 30°
0.25 1.69E-08 6.40E-03 1.69E-08
0.5 5.30E-06 1.73E+00 5.30E-06
0.75 1.71E-05 5.37E+00 1.71E-05
1 2.38E-05 7.40E+00 2.38E-05
1.5 2.40E-05 7.33E+00 2.40E-05
2 1.81E-05 5.50E+00 1.81E-05
3 7.77E-06 2.35E+00 7.77E-06
4 2.99E-06 9.00E-01 2.99E-06
Table A-4. Cumulative HT air concentrations (Ci-sec/m3) at various downwind distances and directions after plume passage (August 6, 1970). Distances less than 0.7 miles are on-site. The closest residence (maximally exposed individual) is 1 mile from source. 20º is centerline of plume.

 Miles\degrees 40 50 60 70 80
0.25 4.70E-01 3.70E+00 6.97E+00 3.70E+00 4.70E-01
0.50 1.13E-01 1.16E+00 2.39E+00 1.16E+00 1.13E-01
0.75 4.13E-02 5.13E-01 1.12E+00 5.13E-01 4.13E-02
1 1.95E-02 2.81E-01 6.43E-01 2.81E-01 1.95E-02
1.5 6.57E-03 1.18E-01 2.90E-01 1.18E-01 6.57E-03
2 2.96E-03 6.33E-02 1.64E-01 6.33E-02 2.96E-03
3 9.47E-04 2.62E-02 7.37E-02 2.62E-02 9.47E-04
4 4.33E-04 1.49E-02 4.47E-02 1.49E-02 4.33E-04
Table A-5. Cumulative HT air concentrations (Ci-sec/m3) at various downwind distances and directions after plume passage (January 20, 1965). Distances less than 0.7 miles are on-site. The closest residence (maximally exposed individual) is 1 mile from source. 60º is centerline of plume.


APPENDIX 3: DESCRIPTION OF THE INDUSTRIAL SOURCE COMPLEX SHORT-TERM (ISCST3) AIR DISPERSION MODEL AND ASSUMPTIONS

The ISC-AERMOD View (Version 4.6.2), created by Lakes Environmental (2002), is a commercially distributed version of the Industrial Source Complex Short-term 3 (ISCST3) air dispersion model developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. ISCST3 has undergone extensive evaluation and validation and is used for regulatory decision making (EPA 1997) (40 CFR Ch. 1: Appendix W to Part 51--Guideline on Air Quality Models). According to Federal Guidance documents, the ISC model is a steady state Gaussian plume model which is appropriate for industrial source complexes, rural or urban areas, flat or rolling terrain, 1 hour to annual averaging times, transport distances of less than 50 km, and continuous toxic air emissions.

The ISCST3 model was used to estimate the airborne dispersion and concentrations of HTO that was emitted from soil. The soil sources were modeled as 8 rectangular area sources with each rectangle approximating the area between the 10E to 30E radii from the LLNL tritium facility. The length dimensions for the rectangular areas were based on sequential distances from the source of 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, and 4 miles. Emission rates within each rectangle are areally constant with appropriate conversions from percent per hour to percent per second. HTO emissions were assumed to be zero during nighttime hours (7:00PM to 6:00AM). Rectangle coordinates correspond with output distances from the RASCAL model (Table A-2). The mean HTO emission rates in Ci/second-m2 for each rectangular source area are listed in Table 1.

The ISCST3 model uses single value (deterministic) soil emission rates in [Ci/sec-m2] as the basis for estimating air concentrations. However, HTO emission rates for each rectangular area, as derived from the cumulative HT air concentrations, the assumed HT deposition velocity, and the rate of HTO emission, are probabilistic distributions. The cumulative HT air concentrations, the HT deposition rates, and the HTO emission rates are represented by probability distributions and are described in Appendix 4. In order to estimate a range of HTO air concentrations from the probability distribution of HTO air emission rates, multiple runs of the ISC model were conducted using the mean and 95th percentile emission rates (for each distance of 1 and 2 miles from the source). The resulting mean and 95th percentile HTO air concentrations were used to define a probability distribution of HTO air concentrations (as described in Appendix 4).

ISCST3 utilizes hourly weather observations from a preprocessor program (RAMMET), which provides hourly stability class, wind direction, wind speed, temperature, and mixing height (EPA 1997). Hourly weather data are not available for the Livermore Airport for the specific times of the 1965 and 1970 releases (NCDC 2002). As an alternative to using such time-specific weather data, this analysis evaluated weather data from 5 different years (1990 through 1994) and used the highest tritium concentration from those different years to estimate tritium doses (Table A-6). Data for each weather year included a 14 day period around the release date of August 6 (July 31 to August 13). The 1990 through 1994 hourly weather data were provided by LLNL (Gouveia, 2001). The hourly weather observations are all from the on-site LLNL weather station.

Tritium air concentrations from Table A-6 were used as input values for the Monte Carlo analysis described in the following Appendix 3. HTO air concentrations were calculated for specific years and distances from the tritium facility--0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, and 4 miles (each along the centerline of the plume).

The ISC model was only run to determine the initial HTO air concentration on day one following the release. Air concentrations for subsequent days are based on an assumed exponential decrease in the concentration (0 to 8% per hour, with a 1% per hour average). Figure A-1 shows the decline in the HTO in soil moisture and the commensurate HTO air concentration. After 12 days, more than 95% of the original HTO in soil moisture has been emitted into the atmosphere. This use of the ISC derived HTO concentrations for only day one, assumes that dispersion from the soil surface to the breathing zone (1 meter above ground surface) for days 2 through 12 is similar to that of day one. As we have used the highest 12 hour average concentrations from a five year period, it is very unlikely that HTO concentrations could have exceeded our estimated values.

Figure A-2 shows a plot of iso-contours of HTO air concentrations from the ISC model. This plot shows the maximum 12 hour average air concentrations based on average HTO emission rates (1992 weather data). The plotted values are the estimated day one concentrations following the release. Subsequent days have lower air concentrations.

Distance from source 1990
µCi/m3
1991
µCi/m3
1992
µCi/m3
1993
µCi/m3
1994
µCi/m3
0.75 mile 0.5 0.4 0.6 0.5 0.4
1 mile 0.5 0.5 0.7 0.5 0.4
1.5 miles 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.3
2 miles 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.2
Table A-6. Values are highest 12-hour average HTO concentrations in air (1 m above ground level) estimated using hourly July 31 to August 13 weather observations (at the centerline of the plume). Concentrations from ISC are based on mean HTO emission rates. Note the overall similarity between years at each location. Subsequent tritium dose calculations used 1992 concentrations, which are slightly higher than other years. One µCi/m3 = 1.0e-6 Ci/m3.

HTO concentrations in air (12 hour average values at 1 m height) and percent of initial HTO in soil for 12 day period following accidental tritium release (1970)
Figure A-1. HTO concentrations in air (12 hour average values at 1 m height) and percent of initial HTO in soil for 12 day period following accidental tritium release (1970). After 12 days of HTO emissions to air, more than 95% of original HTO has been lost from the soil. These HTO concentrations in air are average values. Doses are calculated for the probability distributions of the concentrations (Figure 4B).

Iso-contours of highest 12 hour HTO air concentrations (µCi/m3) at 1 m (~3 feet) above ground surface
Figure A-2. Iso-contours of highest 12 hour HTO air concentrations (µCi/m3) at 1 m (~3 feet) above ground surface. Concentration values are based on the average HTO emission rates (Table 1) using the 1992 weather data and are for the day one values following the release. HTO emissions are continuous during daylight hours and zero during night-time (7:00PM to 6:00AM). Distance scales are in meters, 1600 m is approximately equal to 1 mile, 3200 m ~ 2 miles.


APPENDIX 4: DESCRIPTION AND ASSUMPTIONS OF MONTE CARLO ANALYSIS OF TRITIUM DOSE ESTIMATES

The tritium doses were calculated with a Monte Carlo simulation using the Crystal Ball Forecasting and Risk Analysis software system (Version 4.0; Decisioneering Inc. 1996). Monte Carlo simulation is an analytical process to assess uncertainty when input variables are too complex to be represented by single, deterministic values. Input variables are assigned probability distributions rather than single values and the required calculations are repeated many times with the input variables changing for each iteration. The results of the simulations are presented as probability distributions.

The specific values of the input variables are taken from and determined by the assumed probability distributions. For example, if a normal probability distribution is assumed for an input variable, values around the average will be used most frequently in the calculations, and values greater than and less than the average will be used with equal frequency. In order to adequately represent the range of all possible input variables in a Monte Carlo analysis, several thousand iterations of the calculations are required. In this analysis, 5,000 iterations of each calculation were conducted.

The specific dose calculation used in the analysis is based on the effective dose equations as presented in Cember (1988).

The specific equation used in the Monte Carlo simulation is as follows:

The dose in Sieverts equals

Tritium in Bq x Energy of Tritium beta decay x J/MeV x sec/day x ddref x wt factor/body mass)/lambda

Where:

  • Tritium concentration in curies is converted to bequerels via a constant conversion.
  • The energy of the tritium beta decay is the average decay energy in million electron volts (5.91E-03 MeV).
  • J/MeV is a constant energy conversion (1.6E-13 Joules/MeV).
  • Ddref is the dose and dose rate effectiveness factor (0.1 to 1 with a most likely value of 0.4; ATSDR 2002).
  • The radiation weight factor (wt factor; varies from 1 to 4 with a most likely value of 1.3; ATSDR 2002).
  • Body mass averages 17 kg for a child and 72 kg for an adult (per EPA exposure factors).
  • Lambda = ln(2)/effective half life of tritium in the body (the effective half life of tritium in the body ranges from 1 to 40 days with a most likely value of 10 days).

Doses in Sieverts are converted to doses in mrem by multiplying by 100 rem/sievert and 1000 mrem/rem.

The ranges and most likely values for the ddref , radiation weight factor, and effective half-life are based on recommendations by an independent expert panel review (ATSDR 2002). The specific probability distributions used for all variables in the Monte Carlo simulation are presented in the following Crystal Ball Report. Justifications for the assumed parameters are included in Section 3 and in notes in the following Crystal Ball Report.

As stated in Appendix 3, HTO air concentrations underlying the above dose equation were estimated using the ISC air dispersion model. However, only the initial or day 1 air concentrations were based on the ISC modeled air concentrations. HTO air concentrations for days 2-12 were based on an exponential decline of the day 1 air concentration that varied from 0 to 8% per hour (HTO loss rate; with an average rate of 1% per hour). The resulting decline in the HTO air concentrations and the percentage decline in the HTO remaining in the soil are plotted in Figure A-1. The use of only initial or day one dispersed concentrations from the secondary soil sources assumes that dispersion from the soil will not change significantly from day 1 to day 12.

We have also run the Monte Carlo simulations using differing HTO loss rates. Although this rate essentially determines how fast HTO is emitted from the soil and consequently the HTO air concentration, changing this rate does not change the resulting doses as long as the number of days over which the dose is summed change in relation to the loss rates. A higher loss rate means higher HTO air concentrations but a shorter number of days to deplete the HTO source. Conversely, a slower loss rate means lower HTO air concentrations but more days are required to deplete the HTO in the soil. We have assumed that exposure occurs continuously over the time that HTO is being emitted into the air and that no other factors such as rain are diluting the HTO concentrations.

Separate Monte Carlo simulations were run using initial air concentrations at 1 mile and 2 miles and for child and adult body weights and breathing rates. The results for the 1- and 2-mile locations are summarized in Table 2. As no residences were located less than 1 mile from the tritium facility, a Monte Carlo simulation for those locations was not conducted.

The following Crystal Ball Report is for the child doses at 1 mile. This report presents the sensitivity analysis of the Monte Carlo dosimetry parameters, followed by the probability distributions of the important dose calculations (forecasts), and then the probability distributions of the dose and exposure parameters (assumptions). The distribution of the values in the forecast calculations reflects the uncertainty or range of possible values in each calculation. Highly uncertain estimates have very large ranges of possible values.

The sensitivity analysis of the dosimetry parameters documents the proportion of the total variance in the dose estimate that is attributable to each parameter (for the calculation of the total dose in mrem/year). The sensitivity chart indicates that the HTO air concentration and the HTO loss rate account for more than 70% of the total variance in dose estimates. Tritium dosimetry factors including the biological retention time (or half life), the DDREF, and the radiation weight factor account for most of the remaining variance. Other parameters are relatively insignificant with respect to the above environmental and dosimetry parameters.

Crystal Ball Report of Tritium Dose Simulations for a Maximally Exposed Child


Click here to view this report in PDF format (PDF, 152KB)


APPENDIX 5: ATSDR GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Absorption:
The process of taking in. For a person or an animal, absorption is the process of a substance getting into the body through the eyes, skin, stomach, intestines, or lungs.


Acute:
Occurring over a short time [compare with chronic].


Acute exposure:
Contact with a substance that occurs once or for only a short time (up to 14 days) [compare with intermediate duration exposure and chronic exposure].


Additive effect:
A biologic response to exposure to multiple substances that equals the sum of responses of all the individual substances added together [compare with antagonistic effect and synergistic effect].


Adverse health effect:
A change in body function or cell structure that might lead to disease or health problems


Aerobic:
Requiring oxygen [compare with anaerobic].


Ambient:
Surrounding (for example, ambient air).


Anaerobic:
Requiring the absence of oxygen [compare with aerobic].


Analyte:
A substance measured in the laboratory. A chemical for which a sample (such as water, air, or blood) is tested in a laboratory. For example, if the analyte is mercury, the laboratory test will determine the amount of mercury in the sample.


Analytic epidemiologic study:
A study that evaluates the association between exposure to hazardous substances and disease by testing scientific hypotheses.


Antagonistic effect:
A biologic response to exposure to multiple substances that is less than would be expected if the known effects of the individual substances were added together [compare with additive effect and synergistic effect].


Background level:
An average or expected amount of a substance or radioactive material in a specific environment, or typical amounts of substances that occur naturally in an environment.


Biodegradation:
Decomposition or breakdown of a substance through the action of microorganisms (such as bacteria or fungi) or other natural physical processes (such as sunlight).


Biologic indicators of exposure study:
A study that uses (a) biomedical testing or (b) the measurement of a substance [an analyte], its metabolite, or another marker of exposure in human body fluids or tissues to confirm human exposure to a hazardous substance [also see exposure investigation].


Biologic monitoring :
Measuring hazardous substances in biologic materials (such as blood, hair, urine, or breath) to determine whether exposure has occurred. A blood test for lead is an example of biologic monitoring.


Biologic uptake:
The transfer of substances from the environment to plants, animals, and humans.


Biomedical testing:
Testing of persons to find out whether a change in a body function might have occurred because of exposure to a hazardous substance.


Biota :
Plants and animals in an environment. Some of these plants and animals might be sources of food, clothing, or medicines for people.


Body burden:
The total amount of a substance in the body. Some substances build up in the body because they are stored in fat or bone or because they leave the body very slowly.


CAP:
[see Community Assistance Panel.]


Cancer:
Any one of a group of diseases that occur when cells in the body become abnormal and grow or multiply out of control.


Cancer risk :
A theoretical risk for getting cancer if exposed to a substance every day for 70 years (a lifetime exposure). The true risk might be lower.


Carcinogen:
A substance that causes cancer.


Case study:
A medical or epidemiologic evaluation of one person or a small group of people to gather information about specific health conditions and past exposures.


Case-control study:
A study that compares exposures of people who have a disease or condition (cases) with people who do not have the disease or condition (controls). Exposures that are more common among the cases may be considered as possible risk factors for the disease.


CAS registry number:
A unique number assigned to a substance or mixture by the American Chemical Society Abstracts Service.


Central nervous system:
The part of the nervous system that consists of the brain and the spinal cord.


CERCLA:
[see Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980]


Chronic:
Occurring over a long time [compare with acute].


Chronic exposure:
Contact with a substance that occurs over a long time (more than 1 year) [compare with acute exposure and intermediate duration exposure]


Cluster investigation:
A review of an unusual number, real or perceived, of health events (for example, reports of cancer) grouped together in time and location. Cluster investigations are designed to confirm case reports; determine whether they represent an unusual disease occurrence; and, if possible, explore possible causes and contributing environmental factors.


Community Assistance Panel (CAP):
A group of people from a community and from health and environmental agencies who work with ATSDR to resolve issues and problems related to hazardous substances in the community. CAP members work with ATSDR to gather and review community health concerns, provide information on how people might have been or might now be exposed to hazardous substances, and inform ATSDR on ways to involve the community in its activities.


Comparison value (CV):
Calculated concentration of a substance in air, water, food, or soil that is unlikely to cause harmful (adverse) health effects in exposed people. The CV is used as a screening level during the public health assessment process. Substances found in amounts greater than their CVs might be selected for further evaluation in the public health assessment process.


Completed exposure pathway:
[see exposure pathway].


Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA):
CERCLA, also known as Superfund, is the federal law that concerns the removal or cleanup of hazardous substances in the environment and at hazardous waste sites. ATSDR, which was created by CERCLA, is responsible for assessing health issues and supporting public health activities related to hazardous waste sites or other environmental releases of hazardous substances. This law was later amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA).


Concentration:
The amount of a substance present in a certain amount of soil, water, air, food, blood, hair, urine, breath, or any other media.


Contaminant:
A substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that might cause harmful (adverse) health effects.


Delayed health effect:
A disease or an injury that happens as a result of exposures that might have occurred in the past.


Dermal:
Referring to the skin. For example, dermal absorption means passing through the skin.


Dermal contact:
Contact with (touching) the skin [see route of exposure].


Descriptive epidemiology:
The study of the amount and distribution of a disease in a specified population by person, place, and time.


Detection limit:
The lowest concentration of a chemical that can reliably be distinguished from a zero concentration.


Disease prevention:
Measures used to prevent a disease or reduce its severity.


Disease registry:
A system of ongoing registration of all cases of a particular disease or health condition in a defined population.


DOD:
United States Department of Defense.


DOE:
United States Department of Energy.


Dose (for chemicals that are not radioactive):
The amount of a substance to which a person is exposed over some time period. Dose is a measurement of exposure. Dose is often expressed as milligram (amount) per kilogram (a measure of body weight) per day (a measure of time) when people eat or drink contaminated water, food, or soil. In general, the greater the dose, the greater the likelihood of an effect. An "exposure dose" is how much of a substance is encountered in the environment. An "absorbed dose" is the amount of a substance that actually got into the body through the eyes, skin, stomach, intestines, or lungs.


Dose (for radioactive chemicals):
The radiation dose is the amount of energy from radiation that is actually absorbed by the body. This is not the same as measurements of the amount of radiation in the environment.


Dose-response relationship:
The relationship between the amount of exposure [dose] to a substance and the resulting changes in body function or health (response).


Environmental media:
Soil, water, air, biota (plants and animals), or any other parts of the environment that can contain contaminants.


Environmental media and transport mechanism:
Environmental media include water, air, soil, and biota (plants and animals). Transport mechanisms move contaminants from the source to points where human exposure can occur. The environmental media and transport mechanism is the second part of an exposure pathway.


EPA:
United States Environmental Protection Agency.


Epidemiologic surveillance:
[see Public health surveillance].


Epidemiology:
The study of the distribution and determinants of disease or health status in a population; the study of the occurrence and causes of health effects in humans.


Exposure:
Contact with a substance by swallowing, breathing, or touching the skin or eyes. Exposure may be short-term [acute exposure], of intermediate duration, or long-term [chronic exposure].


Exposure assessment:
The process of finding out how people come into contact with a hazardous substance, how often and for how long they are in contact with the substance, and how much of the substance they are in contact with.


Exposure-dose reconstruction:
A method of estimating the amount of people's past exposure to hazardous substances. Computer and approximation methods are used when past information is limited, not available, or missing.


Exposure investigation:
The collection and analysis of site-specific information and biologic tests (when appropriate) to determine whether people have been exposed to hazardous substances.


Exposure pathway:
The route a substance takes from its source (where it began) to its end point (where it ends), and how people can come into contact with (or get exposed to) it. An exposure pathway has five parts: a source of contamination (such as an abandoned business); an environmental media and transport mechanism (such as movement through groundwater); a point of exposure (such as a private well); a route of exposure (eating, drinking, breathing, or touching), and a receptor population (people potentially or actually exposed). When all five parts are present, the exposure pathway is termed a completed exposure pathway.


Exposure registry:
A system of ongoing followup of people who have had documented environmental exposures.


Feasibility study:
A study by EPA to determine the best way to clean up environmental contamination. A number of factors are considered, including health risk, costs, and what methods will work well.


Geographic information system (GIS):
A mapping system that uses computers to collect, store, manipulate, analyze, and display data. For example, GIS can show the concentration of a contaminant within a community in relation to points of reference such as streets and homes.


Grand rounds:
Training sessions for physicians and other health care providers about health topics.


Groundwater:
Water beneath the earth's surface in the spaces between soil particles and between rock surfaces [compare with surface water].


Half-life (t½):
The time it takes for half the original amount of a substance to disappear. In the environment, the half-life is the time it takes for half the original amount of a substance to disappear when it is changed to another chemical by bacteria, fungi, sunlight, or other chemical processes. In the human body, the half-life is the time it takes for half the original amount of the substance to disappear, either by being changed to another substance or by leaving the body. In the case of radioactive material, the half life is the amount of time necessary for one half the initial number of radioactive atoms to change or transform into another atom (that is normally not radioactive). After two half lives, 25% of the original number of radioactive atoms remain.


Hazard:
A source of potential harm from past, current, or future exposures.


Hazardous Substance Release and Health Effects Database (HazDat):
The scientific and administrative database system developed by ATSDR to manage data collection, retrieval, and analysis of site-specific information on hazardous substances, community health concerns, and public health activities.


Hazardous waste:
Potentially harmful substances that have been released or discarded into the environment.


Health consultation:
A review of available information or collection of new data to respond to a specific health question or request for information about a potential environmental hazard. Health consultations are focused on a specific exposure issue. Health consultations are therefore more limited than a public health assessment, which reviews the exposure potential of each pathway and chemical [compare with public health assessment].


Health education:
Programs designed with a community to help it know about health risks and how to reduce these risks.


Health investigation:
The collection and evaluation of information about the health of community residents. This information is used to describe or count the occurrence of a disease, symptom, or clinical measure and to evaluate the possible association between the occurrence and exposure to hazardous substances.


Health promotion:
The process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health.


Health statistics review:
The analysis of existing health information (i.e., from death certificates, birth defects registries, and cancer registries) to determine if there is excess disease in a specific population, geographic area, and time period. A health statistics review is a descriptive epidemiologic study.


Indeterminate public health hazard:
The category used in ATSDR's public health assessment documents when a professional judgment about the level of health hazard cannot be made because information critical to such a decision is lacking.


Incidence:
The number of new cases of disease in a defined population over a specific time period [contrast with prevalence].


Ingestion:
The act of swallowing something through eating, drinking, or mouthing objects. A hazardous substance can enter the body this way [see route of exposure].


Inhalation:
The act of breathing. A hazardous substance can enter the body this way [see route of exposure].


Intermediate duration exposure:
Contact with a substance that occurs for more than 14 days and less than a year [compare with acute exposure and chronic exposure].


In vitro:
In an artificial environment outside a living organism or body. For example, some toxicity testing is done on cell cultures or slices of tissue grown in the laboratory, rather than on a living animal [compare with in vivo].


In vivo:
Within a living organism or body. For example, some toxicity testing is done on whole animals, such as rats or mice [compare with in vitro].


Lowest-observed-adverse-effect level (LOAEL):
The lowest tested dose of a substance that has been reported to cause harmful (adverse) health effects in people or animals.


Medical monitoring:
A set of medical tests and physical exams specifically designed to evaluate whether an individual's exposure could negatively affect that person's health.


Metabolism:
The conversion or breakdown of a substance from one form to another by a living organism.


Metabolite:
Any product of metabolism.


mg/kg:
Milligram per kilogram.


mg/cm2:
Milligram per square centimeter (of a surface).


mg/m3:
Milligram per cubic meter; a measure of the concentration of a chemical in a known volume (a cubic meter) of air, soil, or water.


Migration:
Moving from one location to another.


Minimal risk level (MRL):
An ATSDR estimate of daily human exposure to a hazardous substance at or below which that substance is unlikely to pose a measurable risk of harmful (adverse), noncancerous effects. MRLs are calculated for a route of exposure (inhalation or oral) over a specified time period (acute, intermediate, or chronic). MRLs should not be used as predictors of harmful (adverse) health effects [see reference dose].


Morbidity:
State of being ill or diseased. Morbidity is the occurrence of a disease or condition that alters health and quality of life.


Mortality:
Death. Usually the cause (a specific disease, a condition, or an injury) is stated.


Mutagen:
A substance that causes mutations (genetic damage).


Mutation:
A change (damage) to the DNA, genes, or chromosomes of living organisms.


National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites (National Priorities List or NPL):
EPA's list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the United States. The NPL is updated on a regular basis.


National Toxicology Program (NTP):
Part of the Department of Health and Human Services. NTP develops and carries out tests to predict whether a chemical will cause harm to humans.


No apparent public health hazard:
A category used in ATSDR's public health assessments for sites where human exposure to contaminated media might be occurring, might have occurred in the past, or might occur in the future, but where the exposure is not expected to cause any harmful health effects.


No-observed-adverse-effect level (NOAEL):
The highest tested dose of a substance that has been reported to have no harmful (adverse) health effects on people or animals.


No public health hazard:
A category used in ATSDR's public health assessment documents for sites where people have never and will never come into contact with harmful amounts of site-related substances.


NPL:
[see National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites]


Physiologically based pharmacokinetic model (PBPK model):
A computer model that describes what happens to a chemical in the body. This model describes how the chemical gets into the body, where it goes in the body, how it is changed by the body, and how it leaves the body.


Pica:
A craving to eat nonfood items, such as dirt, paint chips, and clay. Some children exhibit pica-related behavior.


Plume:
A volume of a substance that moves from its source to places farther away from the source. Plumes can be described by the volume of air or water they occupy and the direction they move. For example, a plume can be a column of smoke from a chimney or a substance moving with groundwater.


Point of exposure:
The place where someone can come into contact with a substance present in the environment [see exposure pathway].


Population:
A group or number of people living within a specified area or sharing similar characteristics (such as occupation or age).


Potentially responsible party (PRP):
A company, government, or person legally responsible for cleaning up the pollution at a hazardous waste site under Superfund. There may be more than one PRP for a particular site.


ppb:
Parts per billion.


ppm:
Parts per million.


Prevalence:
The number of existing disease cases in a defined population during a specific time period [contrast with incidence].


Prevalence survey:
The measure of the current level of disease(s) or symptoms and exposures through a questionnaire that collects self-reported information from a defined population.


Prevention:
Actions that reduce exposure or other risks, keep people from getting sick, or keep disease from getting worse.


Public availability session:
An informal, drop-by meeting at which community members can meet one-on-one with ATSDR staff members to discuss health and site-related concerns.


Public comment period:
An opportunity for the public to comment on agency findings or proposed activities contained in draft reports or documents. The public comment period is a limited time period during which comments will be accepted.


Public health action:
A list of steps to protect public health.


Public health advisory:
A statement made by ATSDR to EPA or a state regulatory agency that a release of hazardous substances poses an immediate threat to human health. The advisory includes recommended measures to reduce exposure and reduce the threat to human health.


Public health assessment (PHA):
An ATSDR document that examines hazardous substances, health outcomes, and community concerns at a hazardous waste site to determine whether people could be harmed from coming into contact with those substances. The PHA also lists actions that need to be taken to protect public health [compare with health consultation].


Public health hazard:
A category used in ATSDR's public health assessments for sites that pose a public health hazard because of long-term exposures (greater than 1 year) to sufficiently high levels of hazardous substances or radionuclides that could result in harmful health effects.


Public health hazard categories:
Public health hazard categories are statements about whether people could be harmed by conditions present at the site in the past, present, or future. One or more hazard categories might be appropriate for each site. The five public health hazard categories are no public health hazard, no apparent public health hazard, indeterminate public health hazard, public health hazard, and urgent public health hazard.


Public health statement:
The first chapter of an ATSDR toxicological profile. The public health statement is a summary written in words that are easy to understand. The public health statement explains how people might be exposed to a specific substance and describes the known health effects of that substance.


Public health surveillance:
The ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data. This activity also involves timely dissemination of the data and use for public health programs.


Public meeting:
A public forum with community members for communication about a site.


Radioisotope:
An unstable or radioactive isotope (form) of an element that can change into another element by giving off radiation.


Radionuclide:
Any radioactive isotope (form) of any element.


RCRA:
[see Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976, 1984)]


Receptor population:
People who could come into contact with hazardous substances [see exposure pathway].


Reference dose (RfD):
An EPA estimate, with uncertainty or safety factors built in, of the daily lifetime dose of a substance that is unlikely to cause harm in humans.


Registry:
A systematic collection of information on persons exposed to a specific substance or having specific diseases [see exposure registry and disease registry].


Remedial investigation:
The CERCLA process of determining the type and extent of hazardous material contamination at a site.


Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976, 1984) (RCRA):
This Act regulates management and disposal of hazardous wastes currently generated, treated, stored, disposed of, or distributed.


RFA:
RCRA Facility Assessment. An assessment required by RCRA to identify potential and actual releases of hazardous chemicals.


RfD:
[see reference dose]


Risk:
The probability that something will cause injury or harm.


Risk reduction:
Actions that can decrease the likelihood that individuals, groups, or communities will experience disease or other health conditions.


Risk communication:
The exchange of information to increase understanding of health risks.


Route of exposure:
The way people come into contact with a hazardous substance. Three routes of exposure are breathing [inhalation], eating or drinking [ingestion], or contact with the skin [dermal contact].


Safety factor:
[see uncertainty factor]


SARA:
[see Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act]


Sample:
A portion or piece of a whole. A selected subset of a population or subset of whatever is being studied. For example, in a study of people the sample is a number of people chosen from a larger population [see population]. An environmental sample (for example, a small amount of soil or water) might be collected to measure contamination in the environment at a specific location.


Sample size:
The number of units chosen from a population or an environment.


Solvent:
A liquid capable of dissolving or dispersing another substance (for example, acetone or mineral spirits).


Source of contamination:
The place where a hazardous substance comes from, such as a landfill, waste pond, incinerator, storage tank, or drum. A source of contamination is the first part of an exposure pathway.


Special populations:
People who might be more sensitive or susceptible to exposure to hazardous substances because of factors such as age, occupation, sex, or behaviors (for example, cigarette smoking). Children, pregnant women, and older people are often considered special populations.


Stakeholder:
A person, group, or community who has an interest in activities at a hazardous waste site.


Statistics:
A branch of mathematics that deals with collecting, reviewing, summarizing, and interpreting data or information. Statistics are used to determine whether differences between study groups are meaningful.


Substance:
A chemical.


Substance-specific applied research:
A program of research designed to fill important data needs for specific hazardous substances identified in ATSDR's toxicological profiles. Filling these data needs would allow more accurate assessment of human risks from specific substances contaminating the environment. This research might include human studies or laboratory experiments to determine health effects resulting from exposure to a given hazardous substance.


Superfund:
[see Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) and Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA)


Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA):
In 1986, SARA amended the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) and expanded the health-related responsibilities of ATSDR. CERCLA and SARA direct ATSDR to look into the health effects from substance exposures at hazardous waste sites and to perform activities including health education, health studies, surveillance, health consultations, and toxicological profiles.


Surface water:
Water on the surface of the earth, such as in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and springs [compare with groundwater].


Surveillance:
[see public health surveillance]


Survey:
A systematic collection of information or data. A survey can be conducted to collect information from a group of people or from the environment. Surveys of a group of people can be conducted by telephone, by mail, or in person. Some surveys are done by interviewing a group of people [see prevalence survey].


Synergistic effect:
A biologic response to multiple substances where one substance worsens the effect of another substance. The combined effect of the substances acting together is greater than the sum of the effects of the substances acting by themselves [see additive effect and antagonistic effect].


Teratogen:
A substance that causes defects in development between conception and birth. A teratogen is a substance that causes a structural or functional birth defect.


Toxic agent:
Chemical or physical (for example, radiation, heat, cold, microwaves) agents that, under certain circumstances of exposure, can cause harmful effects to living organisms.


Toxicological profile:
An ATSDR document that examines, summarizes, and interprets information about a hazardous substance to determine harmful levels of exposure and associated health effects. A toxicological profile also identifies significant gaps in knowledge on the substance and describes areas where further research is needed.


Toxicology:
The study of the harmful effects of substances on humans or animals.


Tumor:
An abnormal mass of tissue that results from excessive cell division that is uncontrolled and progressive. Tumors perform no useful body function. Tumors can be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).


Uncertainty factor:
Mathematical adjustments for reasons of safety when knowledge is incomplete. For example, factors used in the calculation of doses that are not harmful (adverse) to people. These factors are applied to the lowest-observed-adverse-effect-level (LOAEL) or the no-observed-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) to derive a minimal risk level (MRL). Uncertainty factors are used to account for variations in people's sensitivity, for differences between animals and humans, and for differences between a LOAEL and a NOAEL. Scientists use uncertainty factors when they have some, but not all, the information from animal or human studies to decide whether an exposure will cause harm to people [also sometimes called a safety factor].


Urgent public health hazard:
A category used in ATSDR's public health assessments for sites where short-term exposures (less than 1 year) to hazardous substances or conditions could result in harmful health effects that require rapid intervention.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs):
Organic compounds that evaporate readily into the air. VOCs include substances such as benzene, toluene, methylene chloride, and methyl chloroform.

Table of Contents


  
 
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