the website links for more details.
are two gymnastics club facilities in Belmont, California (San Mateo Gymnastics
& Tumble Town) that are directly next to a fiberglass factory (Peterson Products)
emitting potentially harmful styrene contaminants
into the air that are exceeding what the CDC and ATSDR
consider protective of children. There are also homes next to the factory
as well as another kids' facility across the street (Pump It Up). The website
www.cleano2forkids.org is a compilation
of the findings regarding this issue, the air testing results provided by the
County in the summer of 2007, as well as expert responses received, including
from the CDC. In fact, Peterson Products was ranked 3rd in 2002 (most recent data)
for most polluting in San Mateo County. Why were the
permits for the kids gymnastics clubs/facilities issued?
(Center for Disease Control) advises the MRL standard for styrene set by ATSDR
(Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) for kids' safety and health,
which is 260 micrograms per cubic meter, translating to about 60ppb.
Air testing results direct from the County reveal levels
which are multiples of this standard, reaching as high as 333ppb - 500 ppb (half
a ppm) according to Dirk Jensen from San Mateo County Environmental Health:
I got were ranging from about a few ppb to maybe...around 150...I might
have gotten a couple hits up around a couple hundred ppb...Still nothing
that was exceeding ...an exposure limit for an 8-hour work day. ...I was getting
about a third to a half of... a ppm" (7/24/07)
7/25/07 Dirk Jensen disclosed air readings around 150,160 ppb, noting "it's
definitely more concentrated as you get closer to the corner of the gymnastics
building by the roll-up door" and also "up and down Karen Rd".
He also noted that inside Peterson Products "the workers are wearing respirators...definitely
levels above the permissible exposure limit in the work area of the production
shop". It is a very highly industrial fiberglass factory, there is no
doubt about that. However, Dirk considered the factory emissions as more of a
nuisance odor because they are below OSHA's 100 ppm styrene limit in a 8-hour
work day, 40-hour work week for workers, and he was not aware of any other standard
set for children or the general public.
*check the Inspection
Data section on the Health Risks page for
more San Mateo County Environmental Health inspection data
Greater Boston Physicians for Social
Responsibility (GBPSR) note, "Workplace standards are typically not
intended to be protective for the general population AND many are not protective
for workers." In another email from NRDCinfo's
senior scientist Gina Solomon, regarding environmental standards, "Most also
are set for adults, not children. The Hazardous Ambient Air Standard for styrene
is 512 micrograms (µg)/m3 [~120 ppb]. There are concerns about whether that
standard is adequate...".
California behind Texas in regards to protecting the public from pollutants? Texas
has two standards in play for styrene; short term exposure level of one hour at
91.8 ppb, long term level (average exposure level during a year) at 9.18 ppb (source:
Global Community Monitor).
How toxic is styrene? Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classify styrene as a possible human
carcinogen. Styrene is rapidly metabolized to styrene
oxide in the body - styrene oxide is an established mutagen and carcinogen, and
it's believed to be the reason for the toxicity of styrene. (source
). Other health risks include: increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma, effects
on the CNS (Central Nervous System), with symptoms such as headache, fatigue,
weakness, depression, CNS dysfunction (reaction time, memory, visuomotor speed
and accuracy, intellectual function), and hearing loss, peripheral neuropathy
(a condition of the nervous system that usually begins in the hands and/or feet
with symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and/or weakness), minor effects on
some kidney enzyme functions and on the blood, eye and mucous membrane irritation,
dizziness, and even death due to respiratory system paralysis. (source: EPA )
Kids are even more at risk and more
vulnerable to exposures because: 1) Children weigh less than adults, resulting
in higher doses of chemical exposure relative to body weight, 2) The developing
bodily systems of children can suffer permanent damage if toxic exposures occur
during critical growth stages, 3) Children have a breathing zone lower to the
ground, 4) Children consume three times as much air per pound of body weight as
an adult, drink three times as much water and eat three times as much food and
thus are more susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals (source: Agency
for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) , CDC-INFO,
). What makes it even worse, is that the kids are playing and exercising around
these pollutants: From the American
Lung Association: "...when we exercise in polluted air, we increase
our contact with the pollutants, and increase our vulnerability to health damage",
due to breathing rates increasing by up to ten times that at rest, and that "when
we exercise heavily, we breathe mostly through the mouth, bypassing the body's
first line of defense against pollution, the nose."
is important to note that, just because you can't smell it, it doesn't mean that
it's not there - what does it mean if you
are smelling the styrene odor? According to EPA / TTN, the odor threshold (the
lowest concentration point at which you can smell it) for styrene is 0.32 parts
per million (ppm), 320 ppb - that is over 5 times greater than the 60 ppb standard
for kids (source EPA/TTN).
"Its odor is sweet at very low concentrations, but becomes sharp and disagreeable
at higher concentrations" (source dhs).
Follow the website links
for more details.