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
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
- 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
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.