10 U.S. Oil Refineries Released Carcinogenic Benzene Above EPA Limits in 2019
The Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex on June 21, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after a massive fire erupted that triggered explosions. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images
Emissions of the cancer-causing chemical benzene exceeded federal limits at 10 oil refineries across the U.S. last year, a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project has found.
The Environmental Integrity Project reviewed data for 114 refineries across the country. Of the 10 that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action levels, six were in Texas, while the remaining four were located in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi, Reuters reported.
The report analyzed a year's worth of data reported to the EPA following a rule that took effect in 2018 requiring continuous air pollution monitoring at the facilities' perimeters in order to protect nearby communities, which are typically working class and predominantly black or hispanic.
One of the 20 most commonly used chemicals in the U.S., benzene occurs in crude oil, gasoline, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke, as well as in glues, paints, furniture waxes and detergents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Multiple studies have shown that long-term exposure to elevated levels of benzene can cause leukemia, which is a cancer affecting blood-forming tissues, according to the American Cancer Society. Benzene can also cause poor red blood cell production and anemia, and can change blood levels of antibodies, which boosts risk of infection, according to the CDC.
The report found that breathing in benzene concentrations as low as 13 micrograms per cubic meter over a lifetime could cause one additional cancer case for every 10,000 people exposed.
EPA regulations dictate that benzene levels higher than nine micrograms per cubic meter over the course of a year require action on the part of the refineries, though they are not in violation of the law, The Guardian reported.
"The federal action level is intended as a benchmark to flag when emissions are higher than expected, so that facilities can look for the cause and take early action," an EPA spokesperson told The Hill. "The federal action level is not based on an analysis of risk levels to the community — but rather on emissions from the facility."
The top 10 refineries emitting benzene above EPA limits were:
- Philadelphia Energy Solutions - Philadelphia, PA (49 micrograms per cubic meter)
- HollyFrontier Navajo Artesia - Artesia, NM (36 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Total Port Arthur Refinery - Port Arthur, TX (22.3 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Pasadena Refining - Pasadena, TX (18 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Flint Hills Resources Corpus Christi East - Corpus Christi, TX (16.1 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Chevron Pascagoula - Pascagoula, MS (13.8 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Valero Corpus Christi East - Corpus Christi, TX (13 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Chalmette Refining - Chalmette, LA (12.3 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Shell Deer Park - Deer Park, TX (11.1 micrograms per cubic meter)
- Marathon Galveston Bay Texas City - Texas City, TX (10 micrograms per cubic meter)
The leading emitter, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, shut down its South Philadelphia refinery and filed for bankruptcy following a large explosion last June. During the year before, air monitors showed the net concentration of benzene near the facility was five times the EPA action level.
In May 2019, the air monitors detected benzene levels at more than 21 times above the action level, NBC News reported. NBC also cited census data showing 60 percent of the 297,000 people living within three miles of the PES refinery are minorities, and around 45 percent live below the poverty line.
At the HollyFrontier Navajo Artesia refinery in New Mexico, monitors detected a net concentration of 998 micrograms per cubic meter during one two-week period, UPI reported. The net concentration for the year was three times higher than the EPA limits.
"These results highlight refineries that need to do a better job of installing pollution controls and implementing safer workplace practices to reduce the leakage of this cancer-causing pollutant into local communities," Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a press release. "Now, EPA needs to enforce these rules."
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- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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