Dr. Benitez Question and Answer Session on Fly Ash Spill


Why should toxicologists be a part of this screening program? How will the program benefit from your involvement?

Well, the benefit of having a toxicologist is that we deal with anything that’s a poison and anything can be a poison - whether it’s a dust, whether it’s a particular chemical, or whatever in this situation - so we can start putting the risks together. I mean, just because you were exposed to a particular chemical or substance doesn’t by itself mean it’s going to cause a problem, but it has to do with the amount that’s getting into your system [and] whether it be just as a onetime exposure or chronically over days/ weeks/ months/ years, that it can be a problem. So we can start looking at what do we need to do. For the care of some of these kinds of poisons, somebody may need a special type of doc[tor]. If it’s something that’s affecting the lung primarily, they may end up needing a pulmonologist. If it’s something that’s affecting the kidneys primarily, they may eventually need a kidney doc[tor]. But that depends on if they even get up to the point of risk to those particular organs. So the main thing we need to do to start with is: what is the risk, what are the substances and what is it causing, so we can detect if there’s any problem.