New data from the EPA indicate that concentrations of ethylene oxide, a colorless and carcinogenic gas, are higher in Phoenix than anywhere else in the country.
The data came from 18 air quality monitoring stations in nine states across the country, from Seattle to St. Louis to Camden, New Jersey.
Phoenix, whose notoriously hazy air already fails to meet certain federal air-quality standards, was the lone city represented twice on EPA’s list of cities and their level of ethylene oxide.
One of those stations, located south of Camelback Road and east of Interstate 17, topped the list, with 0.397 micrograms of ethylene oxide per cubic meter of air. The other, located in south Phoenix at Central Avenue and Broadway Road, clocked in at 0.345 micrograms per cubic meter.
Both measured well above the national average of 0.297 micrograms of ethylene oxide per cubic meter.
Ethylene oxide is an industrial compound most commonly used to produce other chemicals, like antifreeze. It can also be a pesticide, a sterilizing agent (in lieu of steam) for items like medical instruments and beekeeping equipment, or a fumigating agent in spices.
The numbers represent six-month averages from October 2018 to March 2019, and so the ability to draw conclusions and extrapolate from them is limited.
The EPA has said that those levels fall well below concentrations that can cause immediate health effects. The long-term consequences are less clear, the agency admits.
Cities whose air contained levels of ethylene oxide similar to those in Phoenix were Chicago (0.365); Calvert City, Kentucky (0.363); and Chester, New Jersey (0.361).
Grayson Lake, Kentucky, and Seattle tied for the lowest concentration of the cancer-causing gas, at 0.185 micrograms per cubic meter.
The EPA released the data as part of ongoing efforts to reduce hazardous air pollutants from "miscellaneous organic chemicals," including cutting certain ethylene oxide emissions by 93 percent, the agency said. It had evaluated the risks posed by this group of chemicals, it added, and it found them to be "unacceptable."
Source: Phoenix New Times
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