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Advocacy Group Monitors Air Quality At Local Schools Because Of Deer Park Fire

The petrochemical fire released a mix of volatile organic chemicals — not just the cancer-linked benzene — which react with sunlight to create ozone.

Air Alliance Houston has about 10 monitors installed at schools in Greater Houston.
Air Alliance Houston has about 10 monitors installed at schools in Greater Houston.

The fallout from the petrochemical fire in Deer Park continues, with a breach in a dike wall containing the scorched tankers and more concern about air quality.

Environmental advocates are working to install dozens of air quality monitors at schools in Houston Ship Channel communities, an effort they see as long-term.

Air Alliance Houston has about 10 monitors at schools and in neighborhoods to track health hazards. But they’ve just received Friday 50 new monitors they plan to install at schools in Deer Park, Galena Park, Pasadena and other places, plus other quality hand-held monitors.

Corey Williams, the alliance’s research and policy director, said that these new monitors can track the particulate matter created by fire and compounds related to benzene.

“The smoke cloud that we all saw is kind of symptom — these particles will settle out of that smoke cloud over the coming days and over the coming weeks,” Williams said, adding how they settle depends on wind and other factors.

“Our concern is they will come down and affect Houston area communities,” he said.

Particulate matter from smoke can affect people’s hearts and lungs and aggravate asthma.

Williams said that the petrochemical fire released a mix of volatile organic chemicals — not just the cancer-linked benzene — which react with sunlight to create ozone.

“So, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we’re having our first Ozone Action Day so soon after this incident,” he said.

A map showing the data from the monitors can be viewed, here.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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