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Air Toxics Benzene Program

Project Overview – Air Sampling for Benzene
We will be sampling air to test for the levels of Benzene in our community. The testing will be focused mainly on Benzene but will also identify if there are concerning levels of other air toxins. We have a special concern for Benzene because of the amount of known Benzene emitting sources in and around Akwesasne. Benzene emitting sources include but are not limited to; cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust (including all terrain vehicles and lawn mowers), gas stations and industrial emissions.

We are looking for the co-operation of our community and local businesses.

About Benzene – The Health Effects
Benzene is a hazardous air pollutant (also classified as an air toxin). Benzene is also a known carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer. Benzene in particular is known to cause leukemia with long-term exposure (which is cancer of the bone marrow). The toxins effect on bone marrow may cause aplastic anemia which is a disease that diminishes the ability to produce blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets).

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Benzene exposure to pregnant animals has shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation and damaged bone marrow. Benzene also causes damage to the chromosomes (the building blocks for all life). Many of the health effects are from moderate to high long-term exposure.

Air CanisterAmbient Air Sampling
We are sampling the ambient (breathing space) air in our community. We are selecting nine sites to sample the air every sixth day for a year. We will create a model of where the benzene concentrations are most prevalent and this will give us a clear picture of which sources of benzene are hazardous and which might be low or moderate.

Each site will have a platform that will be used to hold the air sampling canister. This canister will be set up for 24 hours every sixth day. This six day schedule will give an unbiased sample for each season and hit on each day of the week. The canisters will then be sent to a lab for analysis. The landowners that consent and are selected will be given reports on the results. At the end of the project all the data will be compiled and a report will be made for the community.

The sampling will be conducted for a year starting spring 2007.

Shown is a picture of the Summa Air Sampling Canister. Photo taken by Cassie David

Personal Air Sampling
We are also going to be conducting personal air sampling with the help of volunteers. We are looking for volunteers willing to wear personal air sampling devices for a period of 8 hours (the course of a normal working day). There are two major target groups we will be looking at, those that work at gas stations, auto service stations or other known benzene sources and those that do not. One group will serve as a control group. The volunteers will remain anonymous and will only be asked to wear the personal air samplers twice a season. If you are interested know that if you chose to discontinue volunteering you may at anytime without question, signing a consent form will not obligate you to continue. Volunteering for the personal air sampling will not cause any additional health risks to you because we will not be submitting you to chemicals or substances we will just measure the toxins in the air you already breathe.

To get involved contact the Air Toxics Technician.

Want to Improve Air?
Reducing your exposure to benzene can improve your health by cutting down the chances of you developing benzene related diseases. Keep in mind that children are at higher risk for developing air pollutant related health effects. In general the younger a child is the more breaths per minutes, more breaths per minute more toxins taken into the body.

Newborns 44bpm
Infants 20-40bpm
Preschool 20-30bpm
Older Children 16-25bpm
Adults 12-20bpm

bpm = Breaths Per Minute

Another great step you can take is to reduce your overall pollution. Air pollution cycles like any other pollutant through our environment. By reducing one or even better all forms of pollution you can greatly improve air quality.

Reduce Your Benzene Exposure
One of the most effective ways is to quit smoking, if you don’t smoke avoid secondhand wherever possible. Average smoker takes in roughly 10 times more benzene than a nonsmoker. Cigarette smoke also accounts for nearly half of the human exposure benzene. Do not smoke near children! You’re increasing their overall exposure to air toxins and increasing their likeliness of air pollution related illness.

Benzene is a component of gasoline. Using spill proof gas cans and capping then when you’re done using them is important. Spilling even an ounce of gas emits as much volatile air toxins as the average car driving 56 miles!

Don’t let them top off your tank! When the hose clicks the first time that means you’re paying for gas that you’re not getting, plus it increases the likeliness of a spill. Topping off your tank increases the vapors of gas going into the air.

Characterization of Benzene and Other Air Toxics in Akwesasne
The air quality program through a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency assessed the impact of benzene and other air toxics on the Akwesasne Community in conjunction with the Center for Air Resources Engineering and Science at Clarkson University. The Center for Air Resources Engineering and Science at Clarkson University partnered with the Tribe for support of instrumentation for the monitoring and sample analysis and the expertise in data analysis and modeling of this project. The Tribe’s Air Quality Program was responsible for monitoring, sample/quality assurance project plans, and recruitment of individuals to participate as well as reports and budget for grant.

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Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division

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