CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Toxic benzene makes breathing deadly

The air in Portland is particularly filled with deadly benzene particles, making breathing problematic.

The reason, according to the Oregonian, is apparently because Oregon has fewer restrictions on benzene than do other states; hence the gasoline is 'dirtier:'

'You wouldn't know it from the crisp view of a shining Mount Hood, but they're all breathing a soup of toxic air. It's especially full of an invisible but dangerous offender: benzene, spewed from tailpipes of cars on highways ringing the city.

'Benzene, a potent chemical that causes cancer and blood disorders, is not unusual in major cities with lots of vehicles. But in Portland, it's worse.

'That's because the gasoline we put in our cars, pickups and SUVs is dirtier.

'It holds nearly twice as much benzene as the national average and three times as much as gasoline in California, where strict limits make its gasoline the cleanest. Parts of Portland last year recorded benzene levels about as high as the Bronx borough of New York City -- in some neighborhoods many times above levels considered healthy for long-term exposure.

The reason? The federal government requires cleaner gasoline elsewhere -- it makes no such requirement in the Northwest because our skies are considered too clean to trigger regulation. So vehicles in Oregon and Washington, fueled by gasoline made from benzene-rich Alaskan oil, vent about 50 percent more toxic compounds into the air per mile than cars in East Coast and Southern states, data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show.'

The article also cites 'soaring cancer risks.'

I wonder about environmental health where smoke can be seen spewing from tailpipes. Risk factors appear meaningless until the risks result in injury or death; governments need to protect their citizens by ensuring the right to environmental health through appropriate regulation.

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Michael H. Cohen, Esq.; 468 North Camden Dr. | Beverly Hills, California 90210 | 310-844-3173