Read the full story from U.S. EPA.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include a wide range of chemical gases emitted into the air from various products or industrial processes. Some VOCs are identified as hazardous air pollutants and may be harmful to human health. In addition, VOCs can react in the atmosphere to produce secondary pollutants such as ozone. Over the last several years, many areas across the U.S. have seen reductions in criteria air pollutants (including ozone) as well as hazardous air pollutants. However, there remain areas of concern such as those where VOCs and other air pollutants continue to be emitted near communities. People who are exposed to enough of certain toxic air pollutants for a long enough period of time could have increased chances of getting cancer or developing immune system, neurological, reproductive, developmental, respiratory or other health problems. Work must continue to ensure clean air for all communities.
The Rubbertown industrial area of Louisville, Kentucky, is home to over ten industrial sources of air pollutants and is adjacent to residential areas. The area is characterized as an environmental justice community, with a large number of people of color and lower income individuals living, working, playing, and attending school in and around the vicinity of the industrial facilities. EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment has shown that the Rubbertown area has an increased risk of cancer and other health problems.
To help understand how the emissions from these sources may impact residential areas, EPA collaborated with the City of Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District on a study from 2017 to 2018. They used novel Next Generation Emissions Measurement (NGEM) systems to measure hazardous air pollutants, including select VOCs, in the vicinity of Rubbertown’s industrial facilities. Among the advantages of NGEM systems are that they can be either stationary or mobile and can provide emissions and meteorological data to help inform air quality models used to characterize air pollutants at different spatial and temporal scales.