Ambient air concentrations exceeded health-based standards for fine particulate matter and benzene during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (J Air Waste Manag Assoc.)

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is considered one of the largest marine oil spills in the history of the United States. Air emissions associated with the oil spill caused concern among residents of Southeast Louisiana. The purpose of this study was to assess ambient concentrations of benzene (n=3,887) and fine particulate matter (n=102,682) during the oil spill and to evaluate potential exposure disparities in the region. Benzene and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations in the targeted parishes were generally higher following the oil spill, as expected. Benzene concentrations reached 2 to 19 times higher than background, and daily exceedances of PM2.5 were 10 to 45 times higher than background. Both benzene and PM2.5 concentrations were considered high enough to exceed public health criteria, with measurable exposure disparities in the coastal areas closer to the spill and clean-up activities. These findings raise questions about public disclosure of environmental health risks associated with the oil spill. The findings also provide a science-based rationale for establishing health-based action levels in future disasters.”

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