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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 5/20/99
99/60
CONTACT: Amy Collings or Loretta O'Donnell
609-984-1795 or 609-292-2994

AIR TOXICS DATA NOW AVAILABLE ON THE WEB

An analysis of federal estimates of toxic air pollutants in New Jersey -- developed as part of the national Cumulative Exposure Project -- is now available through the state Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) web site.

Until now, the comprehensive data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had only been available through a limited-access EPA web site as strictly statistical data with little explanation. The DEP has prepared summary charts, graphs and easy-to-read text to help readers understand the federal study.

"This was an extremely challenging and complex task undertaken by EPA," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn. "We've attempted to clarify their findings and put them in perspective. The report does serve as a valuable baseline, but the statistics are only estimated levels of pollution based on limited data from 1990. The statistics cannot be taken at face value. Looking at the same emission sources, actual levels in 1999 should be significantly lower due to advances in air pollution controls. At best, this report, with its reliance on estimates as opposed to hard data, is a gauge of a broad-based problem that is being addressed at both the state and federal levels."

David G. Hawkins, director of the Air and Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), praised New Jersey's initiative. "The New Jersey DEP deserves a round of applause for launching its new web site on toxic air pollution exposures in the state. The DEP site provides residents with useful tools to examine monitored or modeled concentrations of these harmful pollutants in each county of the state," Hawkins said.

To access the new DEP web site containing an analysis of the federal estimates of the 1990 levels of air toxics in New Jersey, go to http://www.state.nj.us/dep/airmon/airtoxics. In addition to providing information on estimated risks of exposure to air toxics, the site offers suggestions on what residents can do to reduce air toxics, such as carpooling, using mass transit, buying energy efficient appliances, keeping your car tuned-up and using water-based latex paints as opposed to oil-based paints. It also contains information showing how actual levels of air toxics measured at DEP's air toxics monitoring site in Camden have dramatically declined since 1990, yet remain at unacceptable levels. In addition, the web site contains a map indicating how concentrations of air toxics can vary across the state. Limited county-specific information is available, and more is being developed and will be added to the web site as it is completed. NRDC's web site at http://www.nrdc.org/nrdcpro/cep/ presents additional information on air toxics exposures in other states. EPA is expected to provide updated estimates of the nation's toxic air emissions next year. Other phases of the Cumulative Exposure Project include evaluating risks presented by toxics in the nation's water and food supplies.

The report indicates that air toxics are believed to come predominantly from cars and other mobile sources. Additional sources include fairly common solvents used in the painting, printing and chemical industries. The study found industrial plants play a small role. Washington D.C., for example, is at the top of the list in exceeding the federal guidelines for air toxics, yet has no significant concentration of industry.

"New Jersey is a national leader in environmental regulation. As a result, the levels of all forms of pollution - from priority pollutants such as ozone and carbon monoxide for which there are national standards, to air toxics such as benzene and mercury - have been declining," said Shinn.

  • Reformulated gasoline, in use since 1995, reduces toxics content by 15 percent over 1990 levels. Diesel fuel standards, imposed nationally in 1993, similarly reduced benzene emissions.

  • Greater emission inspections of heavy-duty diesel fueled vehicles is expected to help reduce polycyclic organic matter.

  • New passenger cars, beginning with the 1999 model year, are cleaner-running vehicles as required under the National Low Emission Vehicles agreement with auto manufacturers, reducing smog-forming pollutants as well as toxics including formaldehyde, butadiene and benzene. The EPA plan to restrict emissions from sport utility vehicles and the state's new auto inspection program also will reduce tailpipe emissions.

  • During the first half of this decade alone, DEP has documented a 50 percent decline in certain toxic air emissions from large manufacturing sources, using the annual Toxic Release Inventory reports which cover more than 650 toxic chemicals.

  • Mercury emissions from municipal solid waste incinerators have dropped from more than 4,500 pounds annually to less than 500 pounds per year following the imposition of the toughest regulations in the nation in 1994.

  • The majority of smaller incinerators were shut down in the early 1990s after a DEP crack-down on emission controls. Closure of many hospital incinerators resulted in reductions in dioxin, vinyl chloride and other toxic air emissions.

  • The recent state and federal push to cap and control landfill gases is resulting in reductions in methane gas and other emissions.

  • New rules to control emissions from power plants and large industrial boilers will reduce smog-forming pollutants as well as air toxics.

  • Rules for air permit applicants require state-of-the-art pollution control technologies that minimize toxic air emissions. Special reviews are conducted for permits for lead-emitting industries, and DEP is working with electroplating businesses to reduce chrome emissions.

  • The state's facility-wide permits, a national first, require the control of all emissions at a permitted facility, including air toxics.

  • State controls on the coating, painting and printing industries in the early 1990s reduced both volatile and toxic air emissions from those businesses.

DEP's 1998-2001 strategic plan includes development of a pilot project to evaluate all air emissions within a community, to identify methods for determining cumulative health risks from breathing toxic emissions in a single community. The strategic plan also calls for developing ways to identify facilities where air emissions result in peak exposures to high levels of air toxics, and then developing pollution prevention and control measures to reduce those emissions.

DEP will use the results of EPA's Cumulative Exposure Project to reevaluate its overall air toxics monitoring strategy, and EPA is developing new air toxics monitoring guidelines. DEP maintains a network of air monitoring stations across the state that provides up-to-the minute information on a variety of air pollutants, and in Camden has been measuring selected air toxics since 1989. The state plans to establish at least one additional air toxics monitoring station in northern New Jersey within a year. In addition to the Camden site, the state also monitors for selected air toxics and smog-related pollutants at three other monitoring stations during the summer months. Additionally, a new national program for analyzing air samples for particulate matter is being implemented. It also will include analysis of some of the toxic heavy metals. The first sites are scheduled to become operational in January.

The report suggests that in every single state there are at least seven toxic pollutants that exceed the federal cancer exposure guidelines. Of the 148 toxins covered in the study, 25 are found in New Jersey at levels exceeding the federal guidelines. These estimated findings for New Jersey were similar to those in other industrialized northeastern states. Of the 25 toxins in New Jersey estimated to be above the federal guidelines, 10 were considered to be statewide problems and 15 were identified as local or regional problems. The 10 include the seven toxins commonly found at high levels nationwide. These include benzene, formaldehyde, chloroform and other pollutants which are emitted by a wide variety of sources, most notably from motor vehicles and other sources of combustion, and from fairly common solvents used in the painting, printing and chemical industries and from other industrial sources. Additional pollutants identified as local or regional problems include arsenic, chromium, dioxin and vinyl chloride, which are attributable to the same variety of sources.

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