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Gina Solomon’s Blog

Oil Spill Air Quality Updates for the Gulf Coast - Updated 8/30/10

Gina Solomon

Posted August 30, 2010 in Health and the Environment

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As of 8/30/10, we are discontinuing the weekly Gulf Coast Air Quality Updates. The oil gusher has been capped since mid-July, and now is plugged, so fresh oil is no longer coming to the surface in the Gulf. The oil that is still out there has "weathered", meaning that the volatile chemicals have evaporated. The air quality along the Gulf coast has improved and there have been no signs of problems from the oil in recent weeks. 

In recognition of the reduced threat of air pollution from the oil spill since the well was capped, the EPA is reducing their monitoring efforts in stages.  Barring any new releases of oil, EPA will phase-out oil spill-specific monitoring by the end of September. We will be monitoring this process and the new data collected for any additional health threats, and will post any new data if it suggests any possible problems. Please see below for our summaries of the EPA air quality data over the past few months.

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This blog summarizes our review of the EPA Air Quality Monitoring data related to the BP oil spill, and any other air monitoring data that was available up through mid-August 2010 available. Please refer to my previous post on air quality for information prior to May 26th.  Below, are summaries for all locations along the Gulf coast. 

We are focusing on the following top-priority air pollutants: hydrogen sulfide, benzene and naphthalene, because these are among the most hazardous to health. Hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs and causes immediate symptoms, such as confusion, headaches, and respiratory problems; benzene is known to cause leukemia in humans, and naphthalene is an anticipated human carcinogen that has been linked to neuroblastomas, and cancers of the nose and airways. We’re also reviewing data on other pollutants; if we find any levels of concern, we’ll post that information here.

In my previous post on air quality, I used short-term risk numbers as points of comparison, but now this disaster is dragging on for months so I’m going to start using benchmarks for longer-term exposure. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has set benchmarks for some oil pollutants for short-term (1-14 days), intermediate (15-364 days) and long-term (> 1 year) exposures. In the case of hydrogen sulfide, EPA is taking 1-hour air samples at different locations along the coast in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, so these numbers are best compared with an EPA 1-hour benchmark standard.

Hydrogen Sulfide benchmarks:

Short-term – 1 hour samples: 510 parts-per-billion (ppb) (Mississippi, Alabama, Florida sites)

Short-term – 1 day average: 70 ppb (Louisiana sites)

Intermediate: 20 ppb

Long-term: Not available

Benzene benchmarks:

Short term: 9 ppb

Intermediate: 6 ppb

Long term: 3 ppb

Naphthalene benchmarks:

Short term: Not available

Intermediate: Not available

Long term: 0.7 ppb

I want to remind readers that the EPA air monitoring data is limited; residents and workers may experience stronger fumes (e.g. spikes in levels of one or more chemical), while others may not smell any odors at all and the monitoring stations don't cover all of the impacted areas.  Anyone who feels impacted by fumes should go into an air-conditioned indoor environment until they feel better. This is especially important for pregnant women, infants and young children, the elderly, asthmatics and others suffering from illnesses. More information on gaps in EPA's monitoring is available here.

Symptoms of exposure to oil fumes could include dizziness, headache, irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat, cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, nausea and vomiting.  If your symptoms don’t go away within a short time after you go inside to rest, please seek medical attention. To ensure that odors and health problems are documented and to get advice on the appropriate actions to take if you feel sick, call the following resources:

To report odors

  • In Louisiana call Chris Ruhl (214)789-9587 or Mike McAteer  (214) 354-9371 from the EPA or the response hotline 1-866-448-5816
  • In Florida, Mississippi and Alabama, call the Joint Information Center (985) 902-5231 or the response hotline 1-866-448-5816
  • If you’re experiencing health problems, seek medical attention.  Medical information is also available from the Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222. 
  • Get on the map. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is collecting information on the impacts of the Gulf Spill.  Go to www.oilspill.labucketbrigade.org and report anything you see or smell firsthand regarding the oil spill.  You can also text the information to (504) 272-7645, e-mail it to bpspillmap@gmail.org or Twitter #BPspillmap.

The air monitoring data so far appear not to be cause for major concern for benzene and naphthalene. The levels of hydrogen sulfide EPA is reporting is some areas could cause short-term symptoms in sensitive people and could potentially pose a long-term risk if the elevated levels continue. EPA scientists have reported technical difficulties related to this data and their current methods may overestimate the health concerns. We will update this site as new information comes in that helps clarify the hydrogen sulfide data.

** Update 7/2**  After reviewing the data and the sampling equipment, EPA scientists have reported that the H2S readings at or below 100 ppb are invalid.  The instruments cannot differentiate between a zero reading and a 100 ppb reading.  Therefore, EPA will be marking this data as “non-detect” and only reporting levels that exceed 100 ppb.  Our updates going forward will reflect this change.  We are also pressuring EPA to upgrade their sampling capabilities to determine whether hydrogen sulfide is a pollutant of concern along the Gulf Coast.

In addition to the pollutants in the oil, activities to clean-up the oil spill can also have air quality impacts that can be hazardous to human health.  Burning oil creates particle pollution (particulate matter), known as PM-10 or PM-2.5 depending on its size, that can cause health problems for clean-up workers or residents who are downwind of burn areas.  Particulates can make the air seem smoky or hazy but may also be present at hazardous levels even when the air appears clear.  EPA’s monitoring of particulates near urban areas along the Gulf Coast has mainly found levels typical for this time of year.  Elevated levels have been measured along the coastline, particularly in Louisiana, which could be harmful - especially for vulnerable populations.  More information, and our summary of the EPA particulate data, is available here.

And now the air monitoring data. Please keep in mind that the data are only as accurate as what is available from EPA at the time this was posted and sometimes data is missing or there insufficient data to calculate an average. Click on a location below to go directly to the data for your region:

Louisiana:

Alabama

Mississippi

Florida

Louisiana

We have air quality monitoring data for the following locations in Louisiana:

Chalmette, LA

Recent EPA air monitoring for Chalmette, LA, posted on August 15, 2010 for the time period of July 24-July 30 follows:

  • Benzene – was detected at one station on July 29 at 0.63 ppb.- This level is not likely to cause a health threat
  • Naphthalene – is monitored at one station and ranged from 0.004 to 0.016 ppb. These levels are not likely to cause a health threat.
  • Here is a summary of the results over time.

Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24-July 30
Average Not available non-detect 0.007*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.63 0.016*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17 - July 23
Average Not available non-detect 0.005*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.19 0.007*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
July 10 - July 16
Average Not available 0.22 0.007*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.25 0.010*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
July 3 - July 9
Average Not available non-detect 0.003 *** This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.44 0.009 *** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
June 26 - July 2
Average Not available non-detect 0.005*** This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.18 0.006*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
June 19 - 25
Average Not available 0.23 0.005*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.30 0.008*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
June 12-18
Average Not available 0.27 Not available This level of benzene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.34 Not available This level of benzene is not likely to cause a health threat
June 5- June 11
Average Not available 0.17 Insufficient data These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.50 0.005 These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
June 2-June 4*
Average Not available 0.31 0.004 These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.24 0.005 These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
May 26 - June 1
Average  Not available 0.16 Non – detect** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.79 0.98 Continued exposures at this level of naphthalene could pose a long-term health risk.

 *** This data is only from one monitoring station

* Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period

** The limit of detection of the EPA monitoring equipment is too high to be sure these levels are necessarily safe for long-term exposure.

Venice, LA

Recent EPA air monitoring for Venice, LA, posted on August 15th, 2010 for the time period of July 24- July 30 follows:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide – detected values ranged from 200 to 500 ppb.  These levels could be of concern.   However, the accuracy of the instrument is currently under investigation.
  • Benzene – was detected at two stations at 0.19 and 0.27ppb on July 30 and July 27 respectively. These levels are not likely to cause a health threat.
  • Naphthalene – is monitored at one station and ranged from 0.001 to 0.002 ppb. These levels are not likely to cause a health threat.
  • Here is a summary of the results over time.

Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24-July 30
Average 255 non-detect 0.0015*** If accurate, this level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 500 0.27 0.002*** If accurate, this level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17 - July 23
Average 282 non-detect 0.011*** If accurate, this level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 400 non-detect 0.025*** If accurate, this level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 10 -July 16
Average 272 0.30 0.008 *** If accurate, this level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 500 0.44 0.013 *** If accurate, this level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 3 -July 9
Average 325 0.21 0.010 *** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 500 0.26 0.023 *** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 26 - July 2
Average Insufficient data non-detect 0.325 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 200 non-detect 1.579 This level of hydrogen sulfide could be of concern.  This level of naphthalene recorded at one station on June 27th could be a health threat if it continued.
June 19-25
Average 352 Insufficient data 0.03*** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 427 0.28 0.061*** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 12-18
Average 270 Insufficient data 0.04 *** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 450 0.22 0.06*** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 5 -June 11
Average Not available 0.14 0.01 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.31 0.04 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 2 -June 4*
Average 200 Insufficient data Insufficient data This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
Maximum 400 0.18 0.009 This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
May 26 - June 1
Average  200 0.16 Non – detect** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 360 0.31 Non – detect** This level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals. These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat

*** This data is only from one monitoring station

 * Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period 

** The limit of detection of the EPA monitoring equipment is too high to be sure these levels are necessarily safe for long-term exposure.

Grand Isle, LA

Recent EPA air monitoring for Grand Isle, LA, posted on August 15, 2010 for the time period of July 24- July 30 follows:

  • Benzene – was detected at one station on July 30 at 0.34 ppb. This level is not likely to cause a health threat.
  • Naphthalene – ranged from 0.002 to 0.030 ppb. This level is not likely to cause a health threat.
  • Here is a summary of the results over time.

Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24- July 30
Average Not available non-detect 0.013 *** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.34 0.030 *** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17 - July 23
Average Not available non-detect Not available This level of benzene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.23 Not available This level of benzene is not likely to cause a health threat
July 10 - July 16
Average Not available non-detect 0.006 *** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.23 0.010 *** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
July 3 - July 9
Average Not available non-detect 0.008 *** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available non-detect 0.016 *** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
June 26-July 2
Average Not available non-detect 0.002*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.34 0.003*** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
June 19-June 25
Average Not available 2.63 0.018 These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 7.2 0.08 This level of benzene recorded at one station on 6/24 could be a health threat if it continued. This level of napthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
June 12 - June 18
Average Not available Insufficient data Not available Limited data available
Maximum Not available 0.69 Not available This level of benzene is not likely to cause a health threat
June 5-June 11
Average Not available Insufficient data Non-detect** This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.18 Non-detect** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
June 2-June 4*
Average Not available Non-detect Non-detect** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available Non-detect Non-detect** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
May 26 - June 1
Average  Not available 0.10 Non – detect** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.18 Non – detect** These levels are not likely to cause a health threat

*** This data is only from one monitoring station

* Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period

** The limit of detection of the EPA monitoring equipment is too high to be sure these levels are necessarily safe for long-term exposure.

Alabama

Fairhope, AL

Recent EPA air monitoring for Fairhope, AL, posted on August 15, 2010 for the time period of July 24 - July 30 follows:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide – was detected at one location along the coast of Alabama at 200 and 400 ppb. These levels could be of concern.   However, the accuracy of the instrument is currently under investigation.
  • Benzene – range from 0.12 - 0.22 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
  • Naphthalene – range from 0.002 - 0.008 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat

Here is a summary of the results over time.


Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24 - July 30
Average non-detect** 0.16 0.005 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum 400 0.22 0.008 If accurate, this level of hydrogen sulfide could cause short-term health effects for sensitive individuals
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17 - July23
Average non-detect** 0.22 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum non-detect** 0.26 0.010 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
July 10 - July 16
Average non-detect** 0.18 0.003 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum non-detect** 0.24 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
July 3- July 9
Average non-detect** 0.20 0.005 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum non-detect** 0.28 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
June 26 -July 2
Average non-detect** 0.16 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum 400 0.27 0.013 These levels of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern. These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
June 19 - June 25
Average 283 0.23 0.01 These levels of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern. These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum 500 0.53 0.015 These levels of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern. These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
June 12-June 18
Average non-detect** 0.19 0.01 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum non-detect** 0.24 0.02 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
June 5 - June 11
Average Not available 0.19 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum Not available 0.24 0.015 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
June 2- June 4*
Average 100 Insufficient data 0.006 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum 100 0.18 0.009 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
May 26 - June 1
Average  100 0.14 0.005 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat.
Maximum 100 0.20 0.009 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat

   **  EPA scientists have determined that H2S values of 100 ppb or lower are invalid because the instruments cannot differentiate between a zero reading and a 100 ppb reading.  EPA will now only be reporting values greater than 100 ppb and our data summaries will reflect this change.

* Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period 

Mississipi

Gulfport, MS

Recent EPA air monitoring for Gulfport, MS, posted on August 15, 2010 for the time period of July 24 - July 30 follows:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide –  was not detected along the coast of Mississippi. However, the equipment used is not sensitive enough to measure levels that could be of concern
  • Benzene – range from 0.11 - 0.22 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
  • Naphthalene – range from 0.006 - 0.019 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat

Here is a summary of the results over time.


Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24 -  July 30
Average non-detect** 0.15 .010 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.22 .019 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17- July 23
Average non-detect** 0.15 0.009 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.27 0.019 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 10 - July 16
Average non-detect** 0.20 0.009 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.28 0.017 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 3 - July 9
Average non-detect** 0.16 0.009 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.23 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 26 - July 2
Average non-detect** 0.16 0.011 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.25 0.014 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 19 -June 25
Average Not available 0.15 0.012 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.2 0.017 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 12 - June 18
Average non-detect** 0.21 0.02 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.34 0.04 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 5 - June 11
Average Not available 0.16 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.32 0.019 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 2 - June 4*
Average Insufficient data Insufficient data 0.006 This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 100 0.14 0.009 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
May 26 - June 1
Average  110 0.15 0.01 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 130 0.20 0.02 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat

 **  EPA scientists have determined that H2S values of 100 ppb or lower are invalid because the instruments cannot differentiate between a zero reading and a 100 ppb reading.  EPA will now only be reporting values greater than 100 ppb and our data summaries will reflect this change.*

 * Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period

 

Waveland, MS

Recent EPA air monitoring for Waveland, MS, posted on August 15, 2010 for the time period of July 24 - July 30 follows:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide –  was not detected along the coast of Mississippi. However, the equipment used is not sensitive enough to measure levels that could be of concern
  • Benzene – range from 0.11- 0.26 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
  • Naphthalene – range from 0.004 - 0.019 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat

Here is a summary of the results over time.


Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24 - July 30
Average non-detect** 0.18 0.008 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.26 0.019 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17- July 23
Average non-detect** 0.15 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.27 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 10 - July 16
Average non-detect** 0.23 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.30 0.025 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 3 - July 9
Average non-detect** 0.19 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.33 0.015 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 26 - July 2
Average non-detect** 0.14 0.008 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.23 0.011 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 19 - June 25
Average Not available 0.19 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.22 0.018 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 12 - June 18
Average non-detect** 0.17 0.01 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.33 0.02 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 5 - June 11
Average Not available 0.19 0.009 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.44 0.019 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 2 - June 4*
Average Insufficient data Insufficient data 0.010 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 100 0.14 0.016 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
May 26 - June 1
Average  110 0.20 Not available This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 130 0.23 Not available This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat

 **  EPA scientists have determined that H2S values of 100 ppb or lower are invalid because the instruments cannot differentiate between a zero reading and a 100 ppb reading.  EPA will now only be reporting values greater than 100 ppb and our data summaries will reflect this change.

* Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period 

 

Florida

Pensacola, FL

Recent EPA air monitoring for Pensacola, FL, posted on August 15, 2010 for the time period of July 24- July 30 follows:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide – was not detected along the coast of Florida. However, the equipment used is not sensitive enough to measure levels that could be of concern
  • Benzene – range from 0.10 - 0.20 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat
  • Naphthalene – range from 0.002 - 0.008 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat

Here is a summary of the results over time.


Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24 - July 30
Average non-detect** 0.17 0.005 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.20 0.008 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17-July 23
Average non-detect** 0.23 0.008 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.25 0.010 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 10 - July 16
Average non-detect** 0.24 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.36 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 3 - July 9
Average non-detect** 0.27 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.40 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 26 - July 2
Average non-detect** 0.23 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.31 0.013 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 19-June 25
Average non-detect** 0.23 0.01 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.28 0.012 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 12-June 18
Average non-detect** 0.10 0.01 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.16 0.03 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 5 - June 11
Average Not available 0.23 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.32 0.01 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 2 - June 4*
Average 100 Insufficient data Insufficient data This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
Maximum 100 0.24 0.008 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
May 26 - June 1
Average  100 0.18 0.007 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 100 0.20 0.01

This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.

These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat

 **  EPA scientists have determined that H2S values of 100 ppb or lower are invalid because the instruments cannot differentiate between a zero reading and a 100 ppb reading.  EPA will now only be reporting values greater than 100 ppb and our data summaries will reflect this change.

* Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period

Panama City, FL

Recent EPA air monitoring for Panama City, FL, posted on August 15, 2010 for the time period of July 24- July 30 follows:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide – was not detected along the coast of Florida. However, the equipment used is not sensitive enough to measure levels that could be of concern
  • Benzene – range from 0.05- 0.15 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat.
  • Naphthalene – range from 0.002 -0.006 ppb - These levels are not likely to cause a health threat

Here is a summary of the results over time.


Hydrogen Sulfide (ppb)Benzene (ppb)Naphthalene (ppb)Comments
July 24 - July 30
Average non-detect** 0.09 0.003 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.15 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 17-July 23
Average non-detect** 0.13 0.004 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.27 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 10 - July 16
Average non-detect** 0.12 0.002 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.18 0.002 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
July 3 - July 9
Average non-detect** 0.14 0.005 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.18 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 26 - July 2
Average non-detect** 0.09 0.005 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.11 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 19-June 25
Average non-detect** 0.11 0.007 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.12 0.01 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 12-June 18
Average non-detect** 0.24 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum non-detect** 0.36 0.009 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 5- June 11
Average Not available 0.12 0.003 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum Not available 0.17 0.006 These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
June 2-June 4*
Average 100 Insufficient data 0.002 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
This level of naphthalene is not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 100 0.19 0.003 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
May 26 -June 1
Average  100 0.16 0.004 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat
Maximum 100 0.20 0.007 This level of hydrogen sulfide may be of concern.
These levels of benzene and naphthalene are not likely to cause a health threat

**  EPA scientists have determined that H2S values of 100 ppb or lower are invalid because the instruments cannot differentiate between a zero reading and a 100 ppb reading.  EPA will now only be reporting values greater than 100 ppb and our data summaries will reflect this change.

* Data is not available for all monitoring stations during this time period

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Comments

Diane MichelJun 22 2010 11:12 PM

Dear Ms. Solomon: Thank you very kindly for sharing your expert opinion and research on oil spill toxins. You are doing an outstanding job and I sincerely thank you for taking the time to share your expertise. The potential health ramifications of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill cannot be overestimated.

On my own blog today, I had a question posed to me which in essence asked if the benzene and other toxins from the oil burn off could reach the Gulf Coast of Florida area in the form of either rain (in the clouds) or air (wind).

I did my best to respond with information from the EPA and monitoring station data.

I gave the following links such as: http://epa.gov/bpspill/air.html.

Also I let the person know they could also subscribe to air quality daily notifications to be sent to them directly for their area by going to: http://www.enviroflash.info/.

Are there other resources of information you might recommend for accurate data on air monitoring and proper responses?

Your response is so greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Diane Michel
GlobalMedicalResearch.org
GulfofMexicoHealth.com

Air Quality Gulf of MexicoJun 23 2010 03:39 AM

If as you say...
"Hydrogen Sulfide – 100 ppb was reported at all sites along the coast of Florida. This level could be a health concern, but the level is at the limit of detection of the equipment and may not be accurate."

How is it that the machines on Gulfport, MS are posting 110 ppb and 130 ppb? Those figures are above the 100 ppb limit.

Why the inconsistency?

Cindy B.Jun 23 2010 12:47 PM

Thanks so much, again, Dr. Solomon.

I have looked repeatedly at the EPA website, and consider myself fairly intelligent (most days), but as a layman, I find their data rather difficult to interpret. I very much appreciate you providing information in a 'easy-to-understand' format.

Thanks again for being an excellent source of information.

Gina Solomon, MD, MPHJun 23 2010 08:30 PM

In response to Diane Michel's question, I have been hearing a lot about oil-contaminated rain. In fact, a You Tube video that was just released appears to show oil sheen in rain falling in New Orleans. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=un8co1d4zb4&) I'm still trying to find an atmospheric chemist who can help answer these important questions, since I am not sure how plausible it is. Particles in the air can definitely be knocked down by rain (for example smoke from the burning oil) so it's not at all implausible. Fortunately the benzene isn't as likely to be part of the mix of stuff that will fall in rain, but there are other nasty chemicals (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that certainly could be.

William ThomasJun 24 2010 12:24 PM

What is your take on Naphthalene levels of 30-80being reported and Toluene of 10?

http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/data/air_sampling_update.pdf

Should high risk groups move away?

Gina Solomon, MD, MPHJun 24 2010 07:53 PM

In response to William Thomas: The EPA is reporting their values for naphthalene in nanograms (ng/m3) and toluene in micrograms (ug/m3). We have converted those numbers into ppb for better understanding and more consistency. For naphthalene, 80 ng/m3 is equal to 0.015ppb and for toluene 10 ug/m3 is equal to 2.6 ppb. The Agency for Toxic Substances Control and Disease Registry minimal risk level (MRL) for acute exposure to toluene is 1000 ppb. So I'm not too worried about those exposure levels.

In response to the first question above, levels of hydrogen sulfide in the range of 100-130 ppb are slightly above the limit of detection of the instrument, but are still within a range that is difficult to quantify, given the instruments EPA is currently using. So we aren't really sure if those numbers are reliable. We are pressing EPA to deploy better monitoring instruments to help resolve this question.

lie&lieagainJun 27 2010 12:13 PM

military sources paint a very different picture. Benzene @ 3000 Hydrogen Sulfide Sulfide @ 1200 Methyline Chloride @ 3000-3400 AND, these are not recent. these are toxic levels beyond human grasp in highly populated areas. USAF has pulled all sea training to Washington DC. please don't paint a rosy picture with these numbers, some of us are not that ill-educated.

VickiJun 29 2010 01:43 PM

Thanks Dr. Gina for the detailed info on the air quality in the regions.

TobyJun 29 2010 06:12 PM

Gina Soloman, the EPA is a BP employee. And by you writing whatever they tell you, it makes you a BP employee as well.
People down there are getting sick, they are scared, and you sit here and tell everybody everything is fine.
You know what....?? I'm holding my tongue, because I'm really upset at this cover up job by the press during this catastrophe.

Concerned Gulf CitizenJun 29 2010 11:30 PM

Dear Dr. Solomon,

Like several people have mentioned, the EPA website is difficult to interpret and many people do not put faith in the government's reliability to inform the public of our safety.

We are looking to scientists, like you, to present us with the facts. Please, the Gulf Coast needs your discernment and recommendations. We need someone in our corner, someone in our children's corner.

We are looking to you for honest reports. We will listen to you if you think we should evacuate. Thank you for your work, thus far, in our community.

Jen RothJun 30 2010 09:50 AM

Thanks for presenting this in a readable format. Here's my attempt at interpreting EPA data: http://bit.ly/aOoFGv. How in the world do we hold EPA accountable for recording/reporting in a way that normal people understand, especially in time of crisis?

Also, regarding oil/acid rain, here's another video with information to be considered. EPA and NOAA can say it isn't possible all they want. But something is in that rain: http://bit.ly/bvfdyy

Comments are closed for this post.

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