Dec 3 2007
08:13 am
By: WhitesCreek

I was looking for the TVA conservation recommendations on lighting and ran across this little jewel of governmental mis-speak in the TVA Risk Assessment report.

Public health exposures, cancer: Maximum lifetime cancer probabilities for all TVA fossil plants were on the order of 3 in 1,000,000 or less. EPA’s acceptable range of excess lifetime cancer risk for the general population is 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 1,000,000. TVA concluded that air TRI emissions do not represent a cancer risk to the public.

So TVA emissions pose a cancer risk to the general public of somewhere above 3 times the EPA's threshhold of causing cancer in 1 out of every million people and then says there's no problem?

Think about this when you drive by those big stacks at the Kingston Steam Plant. (It should be called the Kingston Fossil Fuel plant anyway.)

I read that as TVA gets to kill 18 people in Tennessee as a cost of doing business. It's a gamble TVA takes with your life.

Feeling lucky?


I'm not diving into questioning the validity of the statistics quoted.

If they are valid:

EPA's acceptable range is quite broad. 1 in 10,000 is a HELLUVA lot more people than TVA's HIGHEST number of 3 in 1,000,000. And TVA's range, as quotes is "equal to or LESS than" 3/1,000,000. That means equal to or less than 3 ten-thousandths OF ONE PER CENT. That is, statistically speaking, an amazingly small number.

Given statistical numbers of what causes deaths in the US, one is more likely to die of iron deficiency anemia by far than by something caused by TVA's fossil fuel plants. One is also, statistically, more likely to die from suicide, heart disease, an automobile, or smoking than by something from a TVA fossil fuel plant.

"Between 3 and 30 times the EPA's acceptable limit" is an inaccurate portrayal and an inaccurate calculation.

The HIGHEST figure from TVA (3 in 1,000,000) is higher than EPA's LOWEST number of 1 in 1,000,000). But is THOUSANDS of times smaller than EPA's acceptable number of 1 in 10,000.


I think you're right, RB.

I think you're right, RB. I'll update the post to say 3 times EPA's threshhold, which would be accurate.

The EPA numbers are challenged by several organizations that put them in the range I was using, but for the purpose of this post My statement is not accurate. Neither is yours but that doesn't make my error go away. (It's hundreds not thousands)

Good catch.

Now as far as the statistics being correct, they are from TVA's web site quoting the EPA. If anything they understate the risk, which still amounts, as I read it, to 18 people geting cancer due to TV emissions in TN.

The EPA numbers seem.... off...

I wondered about them as soon as I saw them. It's an EXTREMELY wide range, don't you think?

All we can do, for now, I reckon, is accept TVA's numbers till we learn better. But that EPA range is just wild.

As a medical person who tends to get forensic at times, I really have to wonder. I have to understand that inhaled toxins are a very real risk. But I do have to wonder if there is something scientific that says there is a way to differentiate between a death caused by inhaled TVA toxins versus a death caused by second-hand smoke or versus inhaled stuff from diesel exhausts (which includes trains), etc. That would be, medicallly and forensically, a damn near impossible distinction to make. Not sure how it would be done.

But that's another story or issue, kinds...


The commonly tossed about

The commonly tossed about figure is that there are 30,000 premature deaths each year due to toxic emissions from industry and power facilities. If anything, the EPA figure is low.

If you really want to dig into it, I can load you up, but I am very comfortatble with the current mechanism for calculating health effects from a particular form of particulate emissions. I just don't understand why the health of my family can be a cost of doing business for some other entity.

I can understand that...

from one standpoint.

But from another standpoint, the cost of living is dying. I REALLY am not trying to be a twit so please don't hit me with anything :-)

From the standpoint of epidemiology the odds are very, very low that the "steam plant" will kill anybody you know. There are many, many things that we all do every day that are more likely to contribute to or cause our death.

From the absolute point of view, I would venture to say that anything impure or polluted could be dangerous to you. But what is NOT polluted or impure? And it's not all caused by anything that results from bad people doing bad things. I'm really fumbling for words here, so forgive me. One thing that is in my mind is that there are things that we do that we have found out are not all that good for us - that we started doing before we knew it might be harmful. Now - for myriad reasons - it is not possible to either turn back time or simply turn off the switch and stop. So we do the best we can. Like adding more scrubbers to the local fossil fuel plant.

I'm no fan of TVA's management (from a lot of what I can tell, a bunch of 'em are real doofuses), so don't cast me in the role of a blind and stupid cheerleader for the status quo.

Things that can cause death or injury are a part of the cost of doing business for lots of things... car makers, fuel makers, airplane makers, electric appliance makers, swimming pool makers, kids' swing set makers, tobacco product makers, MacDonald's hot coffee makers, etc, etc. It's just a fact of life.

Without a doubt, it's perplexing. What are they to do? How are they to respond?

I dunno.

It actually sounds like buried partially spent nuclear waste from nuclear power plants is less likely to do you or your family harm than stuff coming out of smokestacks in Kingston.


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