Flooding from Hurricane Harvey damaged an oil refinery in Houston, Texas, releasing dangerous amounts of the carcinogen benzene into the air. The compound is known to cause cancer; there is a strong link between benzene exposure and leukemia and other hematologic malignancies.
According to the Houston Health Department, preliminary air sampling in the Manchester district of Houston showed benzene concentrations of up to 324 parts per billion – above the level at which federal safety officials recommend special breathing equipment for workers.
The Environmental Protection Agency said it will continue to monitor air quality and test for pollution, noting that readings in the area have varied depending on wind conditions.
Source: The New York Times, September 6, 2017.