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EPA Air Monitoring Near Olean, N.Y. School Finds No Toxic Chemicals from Plastics Facility

Release Date: 11/09/2010
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitored the air outside an Olean, New York middle school for three months to determine if a chemical used in plastics manufacturing at a nearby plant was reaching the outdoor air. The Agency did not find the toxic chemical in the air. The air monitoring at the school was part of a national monitoring program to help EPA and state environmental agencies understand whether long-term exposure to toxics in the outdoor air poses health risks to children and staff at schools. Monitoring was done at 63 schools in 22 states. EPA selected the Olean school for monitoring, because it is located near a plastics manufacturing facility that uses toxic chemicals.

Schools were included in the air toxics study based in part on estimates of emissions and other information provided by nearby industrial facilities. In the case of the Olean school, computer models were used to determine which air toxics might be present at elevated levels in the outdoor air near the school. The models showed that 2,4-toluene diisocyanate, a toxic chemical associated with plastics manufacturing, might be found in the air around the Olean school.

Air samples of diisocyanates were collected near the school from July 30, 2009 through October 28, 2009. During the monitoring period, EPA evaluated the data to determine if there was any short-term exposure to these and other air toxics. To keep the community informed, EPA posted air sampling results on its website throughout the monitoring period.

The air monitoring found that 2,4-toluene diisocyanate, which can affect the respiratory system if people are exposed to high levels, was not present in the air outside the Olean school. After further evaluation, EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) determined that the computer projection of elevated levels of the air toxic was based on incorrect information about emissions reported by the local plastics manufacturing facility. Based on the findings, air toxic monitoring has concluded at the school. NYSDEC will continue to oversee the permits and activities at the plastics manufacturing facility.

In addition to the Olean Middle School, Intermediate School 143 in New York City was also included in the monitoring study. Results of air toxics monitoring at this school are expected later this fall. The sampling results for all schools participating in the study will also be posted on the Agency’s website as they become available.

The final report on air toxics monitoring at the Olean school is now posted on the Agency’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/schoolair/schools.html.

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