On February 20th and 21st, 2023, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Texas A&M University monitored air pollution in East Palestine, Ohio using Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies Mobile Air Quality Lab.
For the past decade, the mobile lab has been used to measure air quality in cities across the country. The instruments in the lab are sensitive at the parts per billion level. This enables them to identify very small pollutant concentrations that may otherwise be untraceable. It houses several high-time-resolution and chemically specific pieces of equipment to identify air pollutants and emission sources in real time.
During their time in East Palestine, the teams found that all values of Benzene, Toluene, Xylenes, and Vinyl Chloride were below the minimal risk levels for Intermediate (15d-1yr) exposures as set by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. There were no “hot spots” detected by mobile sampling. This analysis corroborates the data collected by the EPA between February 8th and February 22nd as shown in Figure 1.
Acrolein levels, however, ranged from 5x lower to 3x higher in East Palestine on February 20, 2023 than those in downtown Pittsburgh, whose concentrations are typical of other cities across the country. The team used previously collected air quality concentrations in Pittsburgh as a standard sample for comparison. This analysis confirms potential long-term health concerns previously noted by the EPA’s Acrolein air data. Several of the EPA samples were above the Intermediate (15d-1yr) levels. The map in Figure 2 shows the strong geographic Acrolein variation within the East Palestine community.
Our mobile sampling results show that for many of these pollutants, the concentrations are within typical ranges, but Acrolein remains a chemical of potential concern.Albert Presto, Research Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
“Our mobile sampling results show that for many of these pollutants, the concentrations are within typical ranges. Acrolein remains a chemical of potential concern,” said Albert Presto, a research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and member of the Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies.
The mobile sampling was led by Albert Presto at Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with Weihsueh Chiu, Ivan Rusyn, and Natalie Johnson of Texas A&M University.