Families Against Cancer & Toxics

Stop cancer before it starts

January 21, 2008


Fact Sheet on Stage II Vapor Recovery Gas Pumps

Q: Did you know that people in Pima County are being needlessly exposed to known carcinogens every time we put gas in our cars?
A: Gasoline has over 300 components, including benzene, which is a Group-A carcinogen known to cause leukemia. Other ingredients that pose human health concerns include xylene, toluene, butadiene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde; most of the other ingredients have never been assessed for their risk to human health. The effects of these ingredients in combination have not been assessed.

Gasoline tanks don't really get "empty." Gasoline is very volatile -- it evaporates -- so a gas tank without gasoline is actually full of gasoline vapors. When we put ten gallons of gas in our tank, we displace ten gallons of toxic vapors. In Pima County in the year 2000, we pumped 489,022,570 gallons of gasoline, which displaced 489,022,570 gallons of toxic vapors. From those gallons, we needlessly release over 4 million pounds of cancer-causing smog-forming hydrocarbons into our Tucson skies every year.

Q: Did you know that fuelling our cars is second only to smoking as the major exposure to benzene facing residents of Pima County?
A: Lance Wallace of the EPA reports, "It takes about 70 seconds to fill a tank. During that time the [benzene] exposure goes from 2 ppb to 1000 ppb. You can still see a difference in the breath of people 24 hours after they fill their tank with gasoline." More recent research indicates that benzene is harmful even at low doses. The good news is that it is completely preventable.

Q Did you know that our kids waiting in their car seats inside the car are getting even larger exposures?
A: Measurements of air pollutants from refueling and from exhaust while driving are both substantially higher inside the car than outside.

Q: Did you know that children are at higher risk of harmful health effects from gasoline exposure?
A: Strong evidence has shown that children who are exposed to carcinogens are at considerably higher risk for illness than adults. When children receive exposures that can cause DNA damage, it is more likely to affect a part of them that is currently growing, and lead to the rise in cancer or other illness.

Q: Did you know that gasoline vapors cause smog?
A: The volatile organic compounds (VOC) in gasoline vapors react with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, or smog. Ozone causes and exacerbates a tremendous amount of
health problems. One of every three people in of Tucson are at risk from ozone: those of us with respiratory problems, cardiovascular disorders, compromised immune systems, people who work outdoors, our elderly and our children. Recent research shows harmful health effects from ambient ozone even below the current Clean Air Act limits.

Q: Did you know there is also cause for concern for people living near gas stations?
A: A 2004 study found a 4-fold increase in childhood leukemia rates in homes near a gas stations, with a 7.7-fold increased risk of AML type leukemia. A California Air Resources Board risk analysis found an unacceptably high risk of cancer from benzene exposure for residents living within 100 yards of a gas station. And gasoline in Tucson has over twice the benzene as gasoline in California!

Q: Did you know that technology exists to prevent this exposure?
A: Stage II Vapor Recovery Systems are capable of preventing the release of 95% of gasoline vapors. Phoenix already uses these systems, as does all of California, New Jersey and Massachusetts, as well as cities in Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Texas, and other states.

Q: Did you know gas station owners can realize financial benefits from using Stage II Vapor Recovery?
A: Naturally, service station owners do not like having to pay more for hoses and nozzles and equipment that is Stage II certified. However, they have a potential economic benefit of implementing Stage II vapor recovery. It has been estimated that Stage II implementation could prevent the loss of one million gallons of gasoline per year to the ambient air. This represents a savings to the service station operators who would benefit from reduced evaporative or "shrinkage" losses and quickly recover the cost of their investment in Stage II related equipment.

Q: Won't on-board vapor recovery systems take care of this problem?
A: No. While it is true that new cars and light duty trucks are now being built with on-board refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) systems that capture vapors during refueling, ORVR cannot control these vapors alone. California estimates that 87% of their cars and light duty trucks will have ORVR by they year 2020. But even when ORVR is in widespread use, California and other areas such as Missouri have gone on record saying they will not remove stage II even after 2020. Why not?

* Onboard systems will never reach 100% of the fleet. Heavy vehicles over 10,000 lbs are exempt from onboard systems. Flatbed trucks and vans with a "cutaway" truck shape also will never have onboard systems. No vehicles built before phase-in began in 1998 will ever have ORVR. Only a portion of vehicles built before 2006 have ORVR. Vehicles from Mexico are not being built with ORVR.

* The onboard canisters used in ORVR are not proven to work long-term. EPA has found a failure rate of 7% due to canister malfunction. Over time the carbon in the canisters fuses together, resulting in loss of surface area to absorb vapors.

* Balanced Stage II Vapor Recovery and ORVR work very well together, improving the vapor recovery efficiency to over 98% when used together.

Q: Did you know that children of color and children whose parents have low socio-economic status are receiving higher exposures?
A: If a child's parents cannot afford to buy a new car, then their children will receive an exposure to a known carcinogen that wealthy children are spared. America is the wealthiest nation in the world, and we can afford to protect our vulnerable populations. Waiting decades for ORVR to remove this exposure is unconscionable.

Q: Did you know that these highly-exposed children have a disproportionate share of adverse health effects?
A: Health disparities based on race and socio-economic status are well-documented. The Harvard Eight America's study found enormous mortality disparities based on race and income. Clearly we need to do more than we have been doing to help the most vulnerable children in our society reach their potential.

AZ Daily Star Opinion Editorial:
Vapor recovery works elsewhere, but we hesitate.
Our view: Supervisors should OK systems to reduce gas-pump pollution
, December 17, 2007.

AZ Daily Star
Gas-vapor issue going to county committee, December 19, 2007.

Families Against Cancer & Toxins


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