Oil’s smell is in the air on Coast

By KAREN NELSON – klnelson@sunherald.com

Areas of Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Gulfport reported pervasive petroleum smells Tuesday.

It was described variously as a burned-plastic odor, odd waxy smell and the smell of diesel exhaust.

It’s to be expected, officials said, with all that crude oil in the Gulf.

But the EPA is monitoring the air on the Coast constantly with two buses and a plane, a spokesman said Tuesday. So far it’s safe.

He said people can smell the chemical odor of evaporating crude at levels in the air well below the levels that concern the EPA.

“The smell and the health concern are two different things,” said Francisco Cruz, EPA spokesman out of Mobile.

What people likely are smelling is the volatile organic compounds that have evaporated into the air, one group of airborne elements the EPA is monitoring. These include benzene, toluene and ethylbenzene.

Cruz described this as similar to smelling gasoline fumes at the gas pump.

The EPA also is monitoring particulates in the air, “particles that come from the smoke, from any of the burns that have occurred in the Gulf,” he said.

On Tuesday the Coast registered 3 parts per million in the air, Cruz said.

The EPA is concerned with levels that exceed 5 ppm.

Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/05/11/2173623/oils-smell-is-in-the-air-on-coast.html#ixzz0nieR6IuZ

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