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Grist: New EPA watchdog report says refineries can’t police themselves

1 min read

In a significant development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began requiring petroleum refinery operators to monitor and publicly disclose benzene concentrations around their facilities in 2018. Many of these refineries are located in and around neighborhoods of color, reports Lylla Younes for Grist.

In a nutshell:

While this EPA initiative led to a decrease in benzene levels near the nation's 118 refineries, a recent report by the EPA's internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, reveals persistent challenges, reports Younes The OIG found that 13 out of 18 refineries that exceeded the federal benzene "action level" continued to violate standards for extended periods, with many located in communities of color. Environmental advocates emphasize that effective enforcement is crucial alongside data collection to safeguard public health.

Key quote:

“Even if it has helped a little bit, it's not enough,” said Ana Parras, co-director of the Houston-based Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Group, of the agency’s fenceline monitoring requirements. “The lack of enforcement, it's always been there.”

The big picture:

Living near a refinery can have severe health consequences due to benzene exposure. Benzene, a carcinogenic chemical released during crude oil refining, can lead to leukemia and other blood-related cancers with prolonged exposure. Short-term exposure results in symptoms like shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness.

Read the article in Grist.

For more: Allison Guy recently reported for EHN that major updates to air pollution regulations could reduce frontline communities’ excess cancer risk by 96%.

About the author(s):

EHN Staff

Articles written and posted by staff at Environmental Health News

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