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ATSDR Press Room

ATSDR Releases Public Health Assessment For Molycorp Site In Washington, Pennsylvania

Washington County, Washington, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, June 13, 2001

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced today the availability of the final version of its health assessment for the Molycorp site in Washington, Pennsylvania.

ATSDR prepared the public health assessment after a member of the community petitioned the agency to investigate community health concerns related to the site. Community members expressed concerns that radioactive waste slag stored on-site could be causing cancer and might be contaminating an underground municipal water supply line.

Radiological data associated with Molycorp were evaluated to determine if nearby residents are being exposed to radiation levels of health concern. Past radiologic emissions from Molycorp were modeled to estimate levels of radionuclides people could have potentially been exposed to. Based on the modeling results, the estimated past levels of radiation released are below levels of health concern. The site does not pose a public health threat from the exposure to ionizing radiation in the form of either gamma radiation or the incidental ingestion and inhalation of on-site soils containing thorium.

Public health assessments report information about hazardous substances in the environment and evaluate whether exposure to those substances in the past, present or future could harm people in the area. They also identify other activities that might be needed to better understand the health effects associated with the site. Public health assessments also make recommendations to other government agencies, such as the EPA and state and local health and environmental departments, concerning actions to protect public health.

In preparing public health assessments, ATSDR health assessors rely on various sources of information. These sources may include: environmental data, health data and reports of community concerns. Environmental data detail the chemicals at a site and indicate their potential pathways to reach humans. Health data can include reports of injury, disease, or death in the community, as well as information on the known health effects of chemicals at the site. Reports of community concerns document the public's descriptions of how the site affects their health and quality of life.

The public health assessment will be available for public review on or about June 13, 2001, at the following repository:

Citizens Library
55 S. College St., #2
Washington, PA 15301

Comments received during the public comment period have been logged and are now part of the administrative record for the health assessment. Comments (without indication of who made them) and responses have been included in an appendix to the final document.

Community members with additional questions should contact ATSDR Health Communications Specialist Dan Holcomb or Environmental Scientist Kimberly Chapman toll free, at 1-888-42-ATSDR (1-888-422-8737). ATSDR Regional Representative Lora Werner can also be contacted for information at (215) 814-3141 in Philadelphia.

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