Pollution soars in Houston after chemical industry leaks

 
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Houston is still suffering from Hurricane Harvey, long after the storm has passed. But not just because of the flooding or number of damaged homes and roads. Rather, it’s because of the leeching of thousands of tons of pollutants thanks to their large petrochemical industry.

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The number of people being exposed to “soaring levels” of toxic fumes and potential water contamination is staggering and officials aren’t even sure just who is being exposed to what and to how much because several of the air quality monitors were made inoperable by the hurricane.

As it is, Houston hasn’t met national air quality standards since 1970 (the year the Clean Air Act was introduced) and this sudden surge is causing (rightly so) deep concern among advocates for public health:

“Refineries and chemical plants have reported more than 2,700 tons, or 5.4m pounds, of extra air pollution due to direct damage from the hurricane as well as the preventive shutting down of facilities, which causes a spike in released toxins.” 1

In fact, at the end of August, ozone levels in south-west Houston were well above the national standard which triggered one of Texas’s worst recent smogs.

“According to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity, a cocktail of nearly 1m pounds of particularly harmful substances such as benzene, hexane, sulfur dioxide, butadiene and xylene have been emitted by more than 60 petroleum industry plants operated by ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and other businesses since the hurricane.” 2 

(These chemicals are linked to a host of health problems including an increased risk of cancer, gastrointestinal ailments, nausea and muscle weakness.)

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Thus far, the very worst damage has taken place at the Arkema chemical plant, which we told you about weeks ago.

But it’s not just the air quality that Houstonians need to worry about, it’s also the wastewater overflowing since the hurricane (which may contain high levels of toxins) and the more than a dozen superfund sites that may be spreading contamination.

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Houston is under threat from all sides and needs serious intervention.








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Erin Elizabeth

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Sources and References

  1. The Guardian, September 2, 2017.
  2. The Guardian, September 2, 2017.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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