Independent Air Test at Mayflower Oil Spill Reveal 30 Toxic Chemicals at High Levels
April Lane, Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group, 501-538-7002
Breech, Global Community Monitor, 415-238-1766
Independent Air Test at Mayflower Oil
Spill Reveal 30 Toxic Chemicals at High Levels
Health Symptoms Persist Despite Denials
from Exxon and Agencies
Little Rock--A citizen based organization responding
the recent Exxon Pegasus Pipeline rupture and tar sands oil spill discovered
over twenty-five toxic chemicals in the first ambient air sample collected on
Community leader, April Lane, has been collecting
health reports from residents since the pipeline rupture on March 29. Lane
relayed that “even four weeks later, residents are still feeling symptoms from
the chemical exposure. People have consistently talked about gastrointestinal
problems, headaches, respiratory problems, skin irritation including chemical
burns, and extreme fatigue.” These
symptoms are consistent with exposure to the chemicals found in the independent
According to Dr. Neil Carman with the Lone Star
Chapter of Sierra Club and former Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,
“Thirty toxic hydrocarbons were measured above the detection limits.
Each of the thirty hydrocarbons measured in the Mayflower release is a toxic
chemical on its own and may pose a threat to human health depending on various
exposure and individual factors. Total toxic hydrocarbons were detected at more
than 88,000 parts per billion in the ambient air and present a complex airborne
mixture or soup of toxic chemicals that residents may have been exposed to from
the Mayflower tar sands bitumen spill.”
from Exxon, State & Local Officials
Lane is interviewing residents about their health
effects and collecting air quality data because state agencies have not been
proactive in informing residents of the possible health effects associated with
this particular chemical mixture also known as Wabasca Heavy Crude oil. Wabasca Heavy Crude oil, as identified by
Exxon, is heavy oil (bitumen) that is diluted with lighter hydrocarbons like
Benzene to allow for easier flow through pipelines.
Lane is a student at the University of Central
Arkansas and President of Environmental Alliance at UCA; she also works with
the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group. FCCAG was trained last November by
Global Community Monitor in Bucket Brigade air sampling techniques.
Lane’s initial air sample on March 30 detected over
twenty-five toxic chemicals including cancer causing benzene and ethylbenzene.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, chemicals
can have varying health effects depending on intensity and frequency of
exposure. Short-term, high levels of exposure and long-term low level exposure
to benzene and ethylbenzene have led to increased cancer rates. Many of the
chemicals have developmental, neurological and reproductive health effects.
term health effects
term health effects
Cancer, possible reproductive and/or
Breathing very high levels of benzene
can result in death, while high levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid
heart rate, headaches, tremors, confusion, and unconsciousness.
Cancer and reproductive effects.
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 nervous system, numbness
in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headache, and fatigue
have been observed.
The only people known to have been
affected by exposure to n-hexane
use are at work. Breathing large amounts caused numbness in the feet and
hands, followed by muscle weakness in the feet and lower legs. If removed
from the exposure, the workers recovered in 6 months to a year.
Breathing very high levels of toluene
during pregnancy can result in children with birth defects and retard mental
abilities, and growth. We do not know if toluene harms the unborn child if
the mother is exposed to low levels of toluene during pregnancy.
Toluene 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. Inhaling
High levels of toluene in a short time can make you feel light-headed, dizzy,
or sleepy. It can also cause unconsciousness, and even death.
High levels of toluene may affect your
Studies of unborn animals indicate
that high concentrations of xylene may cause increased numbers of deaths, and
delayed growth and development. In many instances, these same concentrations
also cause damage to the mothers. We do not know if xylene harms the unborn
child if the mother is exposed to low levels of xylene during pregnancy.
High levels of exposure for short or
long periods can cause headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness,
confusion, and changes in one’s sense of balance. Exposure of people to high
levels of xylene for short periods can also cause irritation of the skin,
eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty in breathing; problems with the lungs;
delayed reaction time; memory difficulties; stomach discomfort; and possibly
changes in the liver and kidneys. It can cause unconsciousness and even death
at very high levels.
Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry Tox Faqs and the US EPA
Technology Transfer Network, Air Toxics Website
Hazardous air pollutants or HAPs detected include
seven hydrocarbons identified as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m,p-xylenes,
o-xylene, hexane, and cumene. HAPs are regulated under the 1990 Federal Clean
Air Act amendments as the most toxic of all known airborne chemicals.
The Bucket Brigade uses a certified laboratory
capable of detecting VOC’s in the low level part per billion range because
residential health safety levels are set in parts per billion, not parts per
million. Air testing in the parts per
million range is approved for worker-only exposures and not residential
exposures where vulnerable populations like children, pregnant women, seniors
and sick people may live.
Benzene vapors in
the Mayflower sample were measured at 220 parts per billion by volume (ppbV),
exceeding the Texas short-term effects screening levels (ESL) for benzene
of 54 parts per billion (ppb) by four times. Many residents were exposed for
several days and are still being exposed to crude remaining in the environment.
Global Community Monitor Bucket Brigade Trainer Ruth
Breech commented, “The spill and response has been a disservice to the
community. People are obviously suffering and experiencing health symptoms from
chemical exposure related to the oil spill. State and Federal need to step up
immediately to document and prevent any further health issues associated with
the Exxon oil spill. Agencies need to
share information in a manner to ensure informed decision making and enable
access to necessary resources such as medical treatment for chemical
In addition to exposure to these chemicals
associated with the Wabasca Heavy Crude oil spill, residents have many
questions about the cleanup operations and long-term exposure to chemicals.
On April 22nd, FCCAG held a Town Hall
Meeting to discuss issues related to the oil spill. The goal of the event was to make a
prioritized list of recommended actions and time frame for completion. Several presentations were given by Board
Members of FCCAG, including the results of the Bucket Brigade air testing. Experts in oil spill pollution Dr. Wilma
Subra and Dr. Riki Ott also presented an analysis of the available air, water,
and soil data that has been collected by Exxon, EPA, and the state. These experts relayed their first-hand
experiences while working on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the BP disaster in
Over 100 people attended the all-day event that was
held at the Faulkner County Natural Resource Center. The list of recommended actions has been
hand-delivered to the Mayflower City Planning Committee. FCCAG will continue to work with the people
of Mayflower and state and local officials to ensure the health and safety of the
communities and ecosystems that are affected by this disaster.