DETROIT: Alarming Levels of Toxic Chemicals Detected in Southwest Detroit Woman’s Home Near Marathon Tank Farm
DETROIT - Recent air sample results detected over 20 toxic chemicals,
several at alarming levels. The air sample was taken in the basement of
Adrienne Crawford’s home on Pleasant Street in Southwest Detroit near
the Marathon refinery tank farm. The sample contained high levels of
cancer causing benzene and ethylbenzene. Additional chemicals, toluene
and hydrogen sulfide are non-cancerous, but can cause damage to the
Crawford, who took the air sample at 4:30 am on
November 1, was “woken up, gasping for air.” Crawford characterized the
odor as constant, but really strong several times a week. She continued,
“the smell literally takes your breath away. It greets you at the door
and gets stronger the longer you are in the house.” Family friend,
Jackie Smith, also commented on the chemical odor, “I don’t visit at
Adrienne’s house anymore because of the smell-it makes me feel sick.”
Crawford home is surrounded by the Marathon refinery’s tank farms, the
waste water treatment plant and the USO Pumping Station. A possible
source may be underground plumes of gasoline and petroleum products from
the Marathon tank facility or the refinery. Fumes may enter homes
through basements from underground plumes and cause what is known as
‘vapor intrusion’ or high concentrations of toxic gases.
sample was taken using the Bucket Brigade, a citizen air sampling
program that has been active in Detroit since 2009. Residents throughout
Southwest Detroit have air samples exposing chemicals in the air.
California based Global Community Monitor, has conducted two trainings
for Detroit residents and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
and the Environment.
Dr. Mark Chernaik, consultant working with
Global Community Monitor and the Detroit residents, compiled a report
highlighting the health benchmarks:
Carcinogenic substances such
as benzene, ethylbenzene, chloroform and methylene chloride are well
above levels associated with an increased 1:1,000,000 risk of cancer
associated with lifetime exposure. The levels of benzene are especially
alarming, almost 1000 times this risk threshold (a measured
concentration of 320 ug/m3 versus a risk threshold of 0.42
ug/m3).Substances causing chronic, non-cancer health effects, such as
benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylenes, are also well above exposure
levels associated with neurological impacts.
of alkanes in the sample, such as n-hexane, n-heptane, n-octane and
n-nonane (and even higher concentrations of tentatively identified
substances, such as methylpentanes and isooctane), while not a health
concern, strongly suggest that the source of these elevated levels of
toxic substances in the sample collected on 1 Nov 2010 at Pleasant
Street Detroit may be facilities that process and store petroleum fuels.
Breech, Program Director of Global Community Monitor said,”These
results are one of the highest levels of chemicals that I have ever seen
in an air sample. Worse than samples taken in India and Africa. There
needs to be immediate action taken to ensure the safety for Ms.
Crawford, her family and her neighbors.”
Marathon has had several
pollution incidents in the last few months including a release of 3,025
pounds of sulfur dioxide from August 22-24 and black plumes of smoke
and continued flaring on October 15. Neighborhood activist Theresa
Landrum exclaimed, “It’s always something! We are fighting for our lives
ABOUT THE CHEMICALS
Benzene: Breathing very
high levels of benzene can result in death, while high levels can cause
drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion,
The major effect of benzene from long-term
exposure is on the blood. Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone
marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia. It
can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system,
increasing the chance for infection.
Long-term exposure to high
levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, particularly acute
myelogenous leukemia, often referred to as AML. This is a cancer of the
bloodforming organs. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
has determined that benzene is a known carcinogen. The International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the EPA have determined that
benzene is carcinogenic to humans.
Ethylbenzene: Exposure to high
levels of ethylbenzene in air for short periods can cause eye and
throat irritation. Exposure to higher levels can result in dizziness.
damage to the inner ear and hearing has been observed in animals
exposed to relatively low concentrations of ethylbenzene for several
days to weeks.
Exposure to relatively low concentrations of ethylbenzene in air for several months to years causes kidney damage in animals.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that ethylbenzene is a possible human carcinogen.
May affect the nervous system. Low to moderate levels can cause
tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss,
nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss. These
symptoms usually disappear when exposure is stopped.
High levels of toluene in a short time can make a person feel
light-headed, dizzy, or sleepy. It can also cause unconsciousness, and
High levels of toluene may affect your kidneys.
Sulfide: Exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide may cause
irritation to the eyes, nose, or throat. It may also cause difficulty in
breathing for some asthmatics. In many individuals, there may be
permanent or long-term effects such as headaches, poor attention span,
poor memory, and poor motor function.
Source: Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ToxFAQ’s
Adrienne Crawford, Resident, 313-842-0234; Theresa Landrum, Resident,
313-389-1024; Jackie Smith Resident, 313-841-0057; Rhonda Anderson,
Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program, 313-965-0052; Ruth Breech,
Global Community Monitor, 415-238-1766