Air Monitoring System Detects Elevated Benzene Levels on 5/25/2020 Likely Associated with Oil and Gas Activity

A “trigger canister” event on 5/25/2020 has yielded some concerning data about the Benzene levels measured in the resulting report. The report concludes that “The Apis systems at Livingston 02 & 03 (see map here) triggered canister samples at 4:12 & 4:15 a.m. on 5/25/20. The higher of the two 1-hour benzene estimates was 8.8 ppb, very near the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) acute health guideline of 9 ppb.”

Benzene is a highly toxic and carcinogenic chemical that is often associated with oil and gas development. Benzene is classified by IARC as a known human carcinogen (1 Classification).¬†Another guideline often used to identify dangerous levels of Benzene is the California Acute HGV measurement of 8 ppm, a metric listed daily on Broomfield’s own “Oil and Gas Data Snapshots”. The levels identified in this canister sample at 8.8 ppb put Benzene levels ABOVE this measurement. Acute (1 hour at dangerously high levels) exposure to Benzene can result in the following symptoms, according to the CDC:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat 
  • Headaches 
  • Tremors 
  • Confusion 
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Death (at very high levels)

Residents have expressed their concern time and time again about the exposure to these dangerous industrial chemicals within their neighborhoods. As summer months approach and residents consider opening their windows at night to cool their homes, consideration of these chemical exposures may want to be given.

The report analyzed the likely origin of the Benzene and says this:

“I-/n-pentane ratio in both canisters was 0.8, indicating a strong oil and gas source.” If the pentane ratio is below a 1, oil and gas development is indicated as the source of the chemicals.

According to the Oil and Gas Q&A Dashboard, Council Member Jean Lim has continued to ask questions about this Benzene spike as well as question the continued impact of these chemicals to residents’ overall health. Her question specifically is this: “I assume that Dr. Weisner is aware of this canister report and will investigate health complaints at that time. It also pertains to my 5/5 Council question: at what point do recurrent acute events cause long-term health impacts? I think the answer was that we don’t know.” According to the dashboard, the staff is currently researching this question as of 6/2/2020. We will update this article once more information is known.

As always, if you have concerns, write to the city council at council@broomfieldcitycouncil.org.