For More Information:
Neil Carman, Ph.D., 512-472-1767, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club
Hilton Kelly, 409-498-1088, Community In-Powerment and Development Association
Donna Hoffman, 512-299-5776, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club
GROUPS CALL FOR EPA ACTION ON TOXIC HYDROGEN SULFIDE GAS
Constant low exposure to this potent toxic gas can result in permanent damage to the central nervous system, genetic damage, and other serious health problems
(Austin) Community, public health, and environmental
organizations have written a letter to the new U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Lisa Jackson requesting
that the EPA formally list hydrogen sulfide as a hazardous
air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Toxic hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) is currently an unlisted hazardous air pollutant and poorly regulated in most states. The EPA does not require emissions of this gas to be reported in its own Toxic Release Inventory.
Toxic H2S is well known to be rapidly lethal at higher concentrations. However, the recent letter to the EPA cites recent medical research in stating that, even at chronic, remarkably low, sub-lethal levels, H2S – popularly called "poison gas,” "rotten egg” or “sour gas" can cause genetic damage, plus serious and permanent central nervous system damage.
“H2S is one of the most common toxic air pollutants in hundreds of communities throughout the nation," said Dr. Neil Carman, Clean Air Program Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and former Texas State environmental official. “Common sources are oil and gas drilling wells, refineries, and other operations, confined animal feeding operations, and other sources. Public health scientists now recognize that hydrogen sulfide is a potent toxin to the human physiology – in particular, to the brain and to the DNA. Exposure to even low ambient levels causes eye irritation. Chronic exposure at low levels causes irreversible damage to the brain and central nervous system.”
The letter to the EPA, dated March 30, 2009 is co-signed by 25 local and national organizations and individuals including Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Community In-Powerment and Development Association, Citizens for Environmental Justice.
The groups want to see H2S added to the list of 188 chemicals termed Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS) that are regulated by EPA under Title III of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments naming the most toxic pollutants.
"Children are among the most susceptible to this poison gas. It is unacceptable for communities near oil refineries and many others to have to continue suffering the ill effects of H2S when the technology to control H2S emissions is available and affordable," noted Hilton Kelly of Community In-Powerment and Development Association in Port Arthur. "Refinery row citizens have suffered for too long from H2S gas wafting through the community.”
Researchers found the following demonstrable symptoms resulting from chronic exposure to H2S:
• Changes in brain density
• Abnormal neurobehavioral functioning
• Altered mood states such as depression, fatigue, and tension.
• Memory loss
• Pronounced deficits in balance and reaction time
• Overpowering fatigue
• Reduced sense of smell
Communities of color are disproportionately represented in situations where hydrogen sulfide is an emissions hazard. Listing the chemical would protect public health, and in particular the health of children and minorities, the letter’s signers say.