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Air Toxics of Special Concern

"" Using Health Benchmarks
"" The 25 Air Toxics of Greatest Concern in NJ
"" The 7 Air Toxics Above the Health Benchmarks Nationwide
"" What is Meant by Point, Area and Mobile Sources, and Global Background?
"" More Information on Effects of Air Toxics

USING HEALTH BENCHMARKS

We can evaluate the air toxic exposures predicted by U.S. EPA for 1990 by using something known as Health Benchmarks. These Health Benchmarks are the concentrations below which no harm to human health would be expected. It is not always clear, however, how far above the Health Benchmark an exposure may be before there is harm. The actual harm level will vary substantially from pollutant to pollutant. Still, comparison to a Health Benchmark is a useful tool for sorting the CEP predictions. If the exposure is below the Health Benchmark there is probably no need for further investigation. If the exposure is above the Health Benchmark there may be some cause for concern and further assessment is warranted. For carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), the Health Benchmark is set at the exposure that over a lifetime could cause a one in a million increase in the likelihood of getting cancer. For noncarcinogens, Health Benchmarks are selected to be the concentration of a toxic pollutant for which exposure is likely to be free from harm, even if the exposure occurs on a daily basis.

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THE 25 AIR TOXICS OF GREATEST CONCERN IN NJ

In New Jersey, our preliminary analysis of the county average hazardous air pollutant (HAP) concentrations generated by USEPA's Cumulative Exposure Project: "An Sab Report: The Cumulative Exposure Project" (Pdf Format) "Modeled Outdoor Concentrations of Hazardous Air Pollutants: Analysis of Data from the Cumulative Exposure Project for the Urban Area Source Program" (Pdf Format) indicates that there were 24 carcinogenic chemicals predicted by EPA to exceed health benchmarks in one or more counties in 1990. One noncarcinogenic chemical, acrolein, was predicted to exceed the health benchmark throughout the state. These 25 pollutants of concern vary in the extent to which they are expected to be found in New Jersey and the type of sources that emit them. These characteristics are summarized below.

Pollutant of Concern Extent Source of Emissions
Acrolein
Statewide
Mobile & Area
Benzene
Statewide
Mobile & Area
1,3-Butadiene
Statewide
Mobile
Carbon tetrachloride
Statewide
Global Background
Chloroform
Statewide
Mobile & Area
Ethylene dibromide
Statewide
Global Background
Ethylene dichloride
Statewide
Mobile & Area
Formaldehyde
Statewide
Mobile & Area
Methyl chloride
Statewide
Global Background
Polycyclic organic matter (POM)
Statewide
Mobile, Area & Point
Acetaldehyde
10 to 20 Counties
Mobile & Area
Acrylonitrile
10 to 20 Counties
Area
Arsenic
10 to 20 Counties
Mobile, Area & Point
Chromium
10 to 20 Counties
Mobile, Area & Point
p-Dichlorobenzene
10 to 20 Counties
Area
1,3-Dichloropropene
10 to 20 Counties
Area
Nickel
10 to 20 Counties
Mobile, Area & Point
Vinyl chloride
10 to 20 Counties
Area & Point
Cadmium 1 to 4 Counties Area & Point
Dioxin 1 to 4 Counties Area & Point
Ethyl acrylate 1 to 4 Counties Point
Ethylene oxide 1 to 4 Counties Point
Hydrazine 1 to 4 Counties Point
Methylene chloride 1 to 4 Counties Point
Trichloroethylene 1 to 4 Counties Area & Point

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THE 7 AIR TOXICS ABOVE THE HEALTH BENCHMARKS NATIONWIDE

Seven of the 148 hazardous air pollutants included in the Cumulative Exposure Project were predicted to be above the health benchmarks everywhere in the United States because of these assumptions about global background levels. Global background concentrations are the pollutant levels that are found throughout the continental United States in "clean air locations," areas where no local man-made air toxic emissions would be expected. These seven pollutants (which are all included among the Statewide Pollutants of Concern above) are:

  • Benzene
  • Ethylene dibromide 
  • Formaldehyde
  • Carbon tetrachloride 
  • Ethylene dichloride 
  • Methyl chloride
  • Chloroform
  •    

    These pollutants are found in remote parts of the world in significant concentrations for three reasons. Some (such as carbon tetrachloride and ethylene dibromide) are the result of historical emissions that took place many years ago, but they are still found in the atmosphere because they do not tend to break down into other compounds. Others (such as benzene and formaldehyde) result from long-range transport of recent emissions. They do not last in the environment as long as the first group, but they are emitted in such large quantities around the world, especially in cities, that they travel on the wind and are still found in significant quantities in remote and rural areas. Finally, there are a few (such as methyl chloride) that are emitted by natural sources (trees, etc.) as well as by man-made sources. These pollutants also come from sources that are all over the world and they persist in the atmosphere for a long time.

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    WHAT IS MEANT BY POINT, AREA AND MOBILE SOURCES, AND GLOBAL BACKGROUND?

    • Area Sources: this list includes many types of sources that are commonly referred to as Point Sources in New Jersey, such as power plants:
      • Solvent Use (such as coating cans, cleaning metal parts, and dry cleaning)
      • Industrial Processes (such as small chemical manufacturing plants, bakeries, and making scrap metal into new product)
      • Waste Disposal, Treatment and Recovery (including wastewater treatment and various types of waste incineration)
      • Stationary Source Fuel Combustion (including power plants, industrial and commercial boilers, and home heating)
      • Storage and Transport (including gas stations and large gasoline terminals)
      • Miscellaneous Sources (such as wildfires, structure fires, and crop orchard heaters)

    • Mobile Sources
      • On-road vehicles (cars and trucks)
      • Non-road vehicles (lawnmowers, boats, dirt bikes, etc.)

    • Point Sources: this list does not include many types of sources that are commonly referred to as Point Sources in New Jersey, such as power plants:
      • Refineries
      • Municipal Waste Incinerators
      • Toxic Waste Transfer, Storage & Disposal Facilities (known as TSDFs)
      • TRI Sources (those facilities that are required to report their emissions under the Right-to-Know program)
      • Other Point Sources (that have reported emissions under other state and federal programs)

    • Global background
      • Historical emissions of persistent pollutants (such as carbon tetrachloride)
      • Long-range transport of recent emissions (such as benzene)
      • Emissions from natural sources (such as methyl chloride)

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    MORE INFORMATION ON EFFECTS OF AIR TOXICS

    Here are two web sites you can visit to learn more about the health effects of specific air toxics:

    "" USEPA Chemical Fact Sheets
    "" New Jersey Department of Health's Health Effects Fact Sheets

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