Fuel Tests in Omaha-Council Bluffs Area Indicate Excessive Levels of Toxic Compounds

Source: By Nebraska Ethanol Board • Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015

Film Screening Event Provides Forum for Discussion on Human Health Dangers of Fuel

OMAHA, NEB—Some 70 Omaha metro area officials and residents recently heard some sobering news about the levels of toxic compounds in the area’s gasoline and America’s dangerous addiction to oil during a screening of the documentary “PUMP” shown at Film Streams.

The event was co-sponsored by the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Ethanol Board and Iowa Corn, with support from a wide variety of clean air and renewable fuel advocates.

“PUMP”, which was released in 2014, documents the history of petroleum-based fuels and their economic, environmental and military costs. The film also presents a number of alternatives to oil including ethanol, biodiesel, methanol and natural gas. The focus on the film is the need for more choices at the pump rather than being dependent on a single source of fuel. “PUMP” recently became available on iTunes.

During the event, sponsors shared the results of preliminary fuel tests conducted in January. The Nebraska Ethanol Board worked with the Nebraska Department of Weights & Measures to pull random samples of base gasoline at terminals that provide the fuel for the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. The samples were tested by Midwest Laboratories for levels of toxic compounds including benzene, xylene and toluene.

Oil companies add these known toxics and carcinogens to gasoline to increase octane. Levels of these toxic compounds are regulated and are not to exceed 20 percent by volume. But the fuel tests in Omaha showed levels far above that limit.

“What we’re seeing is a consistent level of 28 percent of these toxics in the base gasoline in the Omaha/Council Bluffs metro area. That’s nearly 29 percent above the levels allowed by law,” said Todd Sneller, administrator of the Nebraska Ethanol Board. “These are already very bad compounds at allowable levels. These test results indicate an even more insidious threat to human health that exists in the gasoline we all fill up with every day.”

Kim Clark, director of biofuels development for the Nebraska Corn Board, said, “Ethanol provides a clean, non-toxic, octane-enhancing alternative to the toxic compounds oil companies add to gasoline. Higher ethanol blends, such as those used in flex fuel vehicles, can dramatically reduce the volumetric levels of toxics in fuel—and improve air quality and reduce the threat to human health.”

“Oil prices change. Corn prices change. Geopolitics change. But what does not change are the human health consequences of cancer-causing toxics in our fuel—and the dangerous particulates in the air we breathe,” said Doug Durante, executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition based in Washington, DC. “These toxics and particulates enter our lungs, our bloodstreams, our hearts, our brains. The more ethanol we use in our fuel, the lower the level of these proven threats to human health.”

The film screening was the kickoff for a sustained initiative in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area. Renewable fuels and clean air groups will be working with municipal officials, policy makers and community leaders to develop strategies designed to lower the levels of toxic compounds in fuel, reduce particulate matter in the air, and increase the use of clean-burning sources of octane—namely ethanol.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) has already announced that the focus for its “Little Steps, Big Impact” campaign in 2015 will be to increase awareness about air quality, especially as it relates to transportation fuels.

Angela Tin with the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest was on hand to make comments and co-moderate a post-film discussion with Durante. She pointed out the human health consequences of both fuel evaporation and exhaust emissions.

“We appreciate that the community took the time to attend our event and we urge people to make the decision to choose an alternative fuel that is good for the environment and good for lung health,” she said.