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 Frequently Asked Questions

This section provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from Kingston-area citizens and others regarding the medical screening process and general health issues or concerns. This page will grow based on feedback from the Kingston/Roane County community. Thank you for your participation in the FAQ process.

Video Interview Responses

Dr. Benitez Question ands Answer Session on Fly Ash Spill

Toxicologist Dr. John Benitez answers more questions about general health issues or concerns.

Q: Who is eligible for the screening?

A: Anyone who lives in the area and wants to be screened is eligible. People living closest to the spill site will be screened first.

Q: How do I know if I should go through the medical screening program?

A: You should be screened if you are experiencing medical symptoms you believe are a result of fly ash exposure. Sign-up is available at or you may call ORAU at 865-576-3115. Sign-up information is also available at the Kingston Public Library, Harriman Public Library, Roane County Health Department, Michael Dunn Center, and TVA/EPA Outreach Center.

Q: What do I do if I think my health is being affected by fly ash?

A: Sign-up for an ORAU medical screening examination if you think your health is being affected by fly ash. Sign-up online at or call ORAU at 865-576-3115 to sign-up. Sign-up information is also available at the Kingston Public Library, Harriman Public Library, Roane County Health Department, Michael Dunn Center, and the TVA/EPA Outreach Center.

You should immediately seek medical attention for any urgent condition using one or more of the following options:

  • Contact your family doctor
  • Go to an emergency room
  • Go to an urgent care facility

You can learn more about the health risks of fly ash from:

Q: How do I sign up?

A: The first step in the screening process is to let ORAU know you are interested. Give us your name and phone number so that an ORAU representative can contact you for further information. Inquiry cards are available at the following locations:

TVA/EPA Outreach Center
509 Kentucky Avenue
Kingston TN 37763

Roane County State of Tennessee Department of Health
1362 North Gateway Avenue
Rockwood, TN 37854

Kingston Public Library
1004 Bradford Way
Kingston, TN 37763-3100

Harriman Public Library
601 Walden Avenue
Harriman, TN 37748

Michael Dunn Center
629 Gallaher Road
Hwy. 58
Kingston, TN  37763

Q: Where do I go to be screened? Will I have to travel?

A: Screenings will be conducted locally using medical facilities in the area. You can learn more about the exact process for the screenings by reading the Kingston Project Medical Screenings: What Can I Expect? document (PDF).

Q: How much does the medical screening cost?

A: There is no cost to the individual for the medical screening. ORAU has made arrangements with local medical facilities and will cover the cost of the medical screening tests. Your private insurance should not be billed. If you receive a bill from any facility, company or physician for your medical screening tests, please notify ORAU immediately at 865-576-3115.

Q: What will happen when I go to be screened?

A: An ORAU information sheet on the medical screening program can be found here.

Q: Who will be conducting the screenings?

A: Medical toxicologists from Vanderbilt University Medical Center will be conducting the screenings. You can learn more about the medical staff on the Physician Bios page.

Q: What is medical toxicology?

A:Medical toxicology is the medical subspecialty that is involved in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of patients who have been exposed to agents that may cause a poisoning or adverse health effects. These agents may include medications, chemicals (gases, liquids, or solids), plants, herbals, biological or chemical warfare agents, or envenomations. These exposures may be intentional, such as overdose, or unintentional, such as environmental or occupational exposures. Medical toxicology is also involved in poison prevention and medication safety. Medical toxicology is a recognized board specialty of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Q: What is a medical toxicologist?

A: For a physician to be board certified in Medical Toxicology, he/she must first complete training in a primary specialty such as emergency medicine, internal medicine, preventive medicine or pediatrics. After completion of this training, then the physician must complete two additional years of training devoted to the specialty of medical toxicology. For board certification, the candidate must pass a national written examination on Medical Toxicology. In addition, the toxicologist must maintain continued education and recertify via a national examination every 10 years to assure that the physician is keeping up to date in the field.

Q: What will exposure to fly ash do to my health?

A: The Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have information on the health effects of fly ash. The information can be found at:

ORAU’s medical screening program includes the following tests to determine if your health has been affected by fly ash:

  • Chest x-ray
  • Spirometry tests (lung function)
  • Routine urinalysis
  • Blood work
  • A physical examination

Factors considered in determining if your health has been affected from chemical exposure include:

  • Type of chemical
  • Amount of a particular chemical to which you were exposed
  • Duration of exposure to a chemical
  • Frequency of exposure to a chemical

Q: Why is ORAU testing for certain elements?

A:Tests conducted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified nine elements with higher levels in the fly ash than in the regional soil. Exposure to these elements over a long period of time could pose health risks. These elements are aluminum, arsenic, barium, beryllium, chromium, cobalt, copper, nickel and vanadium. Although selenium and thallium were found to be lower in the fly ash than in regional soil, these elements are also being tested due to the potential health effects.

The ORAU screening program will screen residents to make sure they were not exposed to high levels of these elements. The ORAU screening program includes the following tests to determine if your health has been affected by fly ash:

  • Chest x-ray
  • Spirometry tests (lung function)
  • Routine urinalysis
  • Blood work
  • A physical examination

You can find more information about the 11 elements being tested for on the ATSDR web site at

Q: What is being done for people who feel they have been exposed to fly ash?

A: The ORAU medical screening program has been created to provide free health screenings. For more information on the ORAU Kingston Health Screening Project, please visit

An ORAU representative attends public meetings related to the Kingston fly ash spill. The ORAU representative will provide updates and answer questions residents may have related to the health screening process. If a question cannot be answered immediately, the ORAU representative will take the resident’s contact information and contact them with an answer.

An ORAU hotline has been established to answer any questions from residents regarding health and symptoms. An ORAU representative can be reached at 865-576-3115. Residents can send questions regarding health and symptoms to ORAU is providing healthcare providers in Roane, Anderson and Knox counties reliable and accurate medical information concerning the medical screening program.

Q: How long will it take to get the medical screening test results?

A: It will take about 10 days for the doctors to get the laboratory results. If there is an ‘urgent finding’, the participant will be contacted immediately by one of the doctors from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Otherwise, the Vanderbilt physicians will review all the results with the participant at the time of the physical examination.

Q: If someone’s tests show a particular chemical or substance is affecting certain organs, will you refer them to the appropriate specialists?

A: Absolutely. Some things medical toxicologists can take care of, for example if individuals need specialized toxicological care. But if someone is developing bronchitis or emphysema or some other lung condition that toxicologists don’t normally treat they will absolutely be referred to their primary care doctor or to their pulmonologist.

Q: What happens to information collected from the medical screening program? Will results become public information?

A: Individuals who go through the medical screening program will be mailed a copy of their test results. A Vanderbilt University Medical Center medical toxicologist will review test results privately with each individual who participates in the medical screening program. Individuals may choose to share test results with their personal physician. Vanderbilt University Medical Center will keep a copy of each individual’s test results.

Sharing your personal health information is your choice. There are laws in place to protect the privacy of your medical records. The Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) provides federal protections for personal health information and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. State medical and nursing licensing boards enforce codes of ethics that require doctors and nurses to keep medical informaton confidential.

A summary report free of personally identifiable information will be made public. The report will consist of statistical data, showing test results of the population as a whole. No personally identifiable information will be included in the report.

Q: Since TVA is paying ORAU for the medical screenings, how can ORAU be independent?

A: Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) is conducting the medical screening program in partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). ORAU will conduct interviews and schedule appointments. Doctors from VUMC will review the results with the individuals who receive the tests. The medical screenings will be conducted at local facilities to make the process convenient for residents.

For the past 30 years, ORAU has conducted both short term and long term health assessments. ORAU has conducted health assessments on former Department of Energy workers for more than 15 years. ORAU has provided health education to doctors and the public at dozens of hazardous waste sites in the United States.

ORAU and VUMC will design, conduct, analyze, and report on the screenings. Individual patient results will remain confidential and will only be released to the patient or with the patient’s permission. Findings from the medical screenings will be made public in a report that is free of any personally identifiable information. No identifiable or confidential information will be released to TVA or any other entity.

Q: When will the results report be released?

A: ORAU, in conjunction with Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), expects to release the results report in the summer of 2010. There are people who have not completed the entire screening process, and analyzing their test results will take time.

It is important to ORAU and VUMC to provide correct, verified information the first time. We believe it is best to release the results report after we have analyzed all the information.

People who have completed the screening process have been advised of their results. Discoveries of health issues unrelated to fly ash (i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) have allowed ORAU to refer those people to the proper specialists. Currently, the program has recommended no hospitalizations or medical treatment because of exposure to fly ash.

Contact Us

ORAU Health Studies
PO Box 117
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-0117


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