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Albany South End - Benzene Results

Air Monitoring Results from NYSDEC's Air Toxics Monitoring Network

Where does it come from?

Benzene can be found in the air samples collected anywhere in the State. It comes from the combustion of fuels used in passenger cars, heavy-duty trucks, marine vessels and planes. It is also released into the air when petroleum-based fuels (such as crude oil, gasoline, home-heating oil) evaporate during storage or when the fuel is moved or transferred to and from storage terminal tanks, trucks, railcars and barges.

The largest sources of benzene are the oil (petroleum) industry, chemical manufacturing and motor vehicles. However, benzene emissions at a community level could be from gasoline terminals, petroleum bulk storage locations, asphalt plants and gasoline stations. County-wide, benzene emissions are more often from motor vehicles and space heating.

Monitoring Results

A comparison of the benzene levels found in the Albany South End with levels at all monitors in the State is displayed in Figure 1. The benzene results are above the annual guideline concentration (AGC) at all locations, even at the most rural locations at Whiteface Mountain (in the Adirondacks) and Pinnacle State Park in the Southern Tier.

Monitors located near sources and urban areas with a high density of buildings and motor vehicles have higher concentrations of benzene. The lowest concentrations are found in rural locations. The 2017, 12-month averages are compared with the DEC health-based (AGC) for benzene.

What is DEC's health-based annual guideline concentration (AGC)?

DEC's annual and short-term air guideline concentrations are established by adopting the most conservative and scientifically valid health-based air comparison values developed by DEC or others, such as the US Environmental Protection Agency or the New York State Department of Health. These values are used to assess the acceptability of proposed new air pollution sources during the permitting process, and to evaluate the results of ambient air monitoring studies that measure the cumulative impact of sources of air pollution in an area.

The guideline concentrations are not bright lines between air concentrations that cause health effects and those that do not. They help guide decisions about reducing community exposure to air pollution. More information about how DEC develops guideline concentrations can be found in Controlling Air Toxics.

Thirty-four months of benzene data have been collected and the individual results are presented in this table Benzene Results: March 2015 - December 2017 (PDF) (37 kb, 4 pgs).

Graph comparing benzene concentrations around NYS

Figure 1. Benzene 12-Month Average for 2017

Historical Concentrations of Benzene

Controlling air pollution from motor vehicles in New York State improves air quality and protects public health. As air quality has improved over time in New York State, benzene concentrations have decreased significantly (See Figure 2), thanks to stricter State and federal vehicle emission standards and regulations requiring cleaner fuels. Cleaner burning vehicles reduce smog and other pollutants including benzene and in areas where cleaner fuel is required, such as in the New York City Metropolitan area, benzene levels have decreased. We expect benzene concentrations to continue to decrease with continued improvements in engine efficiency, improvements in construction and off-road equipment engines and an increase in our use of hybrid and electric vehicles.

All monitoring locations in the State are above DEC's AGC for benzene which is set at a 1-in-a-million cancer risk, but below our risk management level of 10-in-a-million. The concentrations of benzene determined across the various monitoring locations statewide are relatively close in value which shows that the sources of benzene are also distributed statewide. This finding was expected since the refueling and operation of motor vehicles contributes to benzene concentration in all areas of the State.

Learn more about what DEC is doing, go to Controlling Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles.

Historical NYS benzene data from 2000 to 2016

Figure 2. Benzene Annual Averages 2000-2017