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TEXAS CITY — The power stayed on at the industrial complexes Thursday after three days of outages, blips and unit shutdowns led to a lot of flaring. But as work crews clean power equipment of salt and dirt thought to have caused the outages, power company officials said it might be three weeks before the work is complete but that primary service work should be done by the weekend.
Published April 28, 2011 TEXAS CITY — More than 89,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide and about 1,000 pounds of benzene were estimated to have been released by two refineries during a 24 hour period following a massive power outage that led to excessive flaring at Texas City’s major industrial complexes Monday night and Tuesday morning.
Sulfur dioxide is a major air pollutant and has significant impacts upon human health. In addition the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere can influence the habitat suitability for plant communities as well as animal life
Inhaling sulfur dioxide is associated with increased respiratory symptoms and disease, difficulty in breathing, and premature death. In 2008, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists reduced the Short-term exposure limit from 5 ppm to 0.25 ppm. The OSHA PEL is currently set at 5 ppm (13 mg/m3) time weighted average. NIOSH has set the IDLH at 100 ppm.
Benzene exposure has serious health effects. The American Petroleum Institute (API) stated in 1948 that "it is generally considered that the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero." The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) classifies benzene as a human carcinogen. Long-term exposure to excessive levels of benzene in the air causes leukemia, a potentially fatal cancer of the blood-forming organs, in susceptible individuals. In particular, Acute myeloid leukemia or acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia (AML & ANLL) is not disputed to be caused by benzene. IARC rated benzene as "known to be carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1).
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit of 1 part of benzene per million parts of air (1 ppm) in the workplace during an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek. The short term exposure limit for airborne benzene is 5 ppm for 15 minutes. These legal limits were based on studies demonstrating compelling evidence of health risk to workers exposed to benzene. The risk from exposure to 1 ppm for a working lifetime has been estimated as 5 excess leukemia deaths per 1,000 employees exposed. (This estimate assumes no threshold for benzene's carcinogenic effects.) OSHA has also established an action level of 0.5 ppm to encourage even lower exposures in the workplace.