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dangers of vocs

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are made up of elements including Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). Global was cited by the EPA for releasing twice their permitted VOC’s for at least seven years.  HAPs vary in their disease effects.

They hit the very young the hardest because they are growing rapidly and their resting metabolic rate is higher.  They consume more oxygen per body weight than adults.  This significantly increases their exposure to HAPs.  Their airways are narrower and their mucous glands are larger.  Irritations that might cause only a slight response in an adult could result in dangerous obstruction for a child.  This obstruction can put them at risk for allergies and life threatening asthma. 

For all of us, long term exposures have the potential to harm our organ systems such as:  the heart and circulatory system, the liver - our major organ of detoxification - and most critically our immune system.  The genetics we inherit from our parents and past generations isn’t necessarily what condemns us to the cancers, autoimmune, and other diseases that we struggle with.  It is now understood that our inherited DNA functions as a blueprint.  It is the environmental challenges that potentially change the DNA that pulls the trigger for these diseases.

We know that increasing amounts of these VOCs in the air we breath is a risk factor especially for children, the elderly and pregnant women and those living near the source of these pollutants.  We have heard testimony from people living in the vicinity of the Global tank farm that they have endured frequent severe headaches, and discomfort of breathing in the toxic smells emitted especially in the evenings.

cancer risks

Cancer Risk For Portland and South Portland Residents From Tank Farm Emissions Using the EPA HEM-3 Model

Cancer Risk Map.jpg


Increased Cancer Risk Per Million People

Green squares: low-3     high-19


Yellow squares: low-20   high-89


Red squares:     low-101 high-165

This map summarizes the areas at greatest risk for increased cancer incidence by color. It was created by South Portland professional environmental engineer, David Falatko using the EPA risk assessment model, HEM-3. The Human Exposure Model (HEM-3) is a streamlined yet rigorous tool that can be used to estimate ambient concentrations, human exposures and health risks that may result from air pollution emissions from complex industrial facilities.


The risk factors are based upon the permitted levels of emissions for each tank farm with the exception of the Portland Pipeline Co. LLC which was not included since the tanks were no longer in use. However, since that time, six to eight of the 23 tanks have been filled with crude oil. Refilling these tanks will result in an increase in the above risk estimates since the Portland Pipeline company was ranked with Sprague and Gulf as the largest permitted emitter of HAP’s when in full operation.


The Maine CDC considers the acceptable cancer risk to be 10 additional cancers per million population. Other states such as Mass. and NY consider the acceptable increase to be 1 cancer per million of population.


What the model clearly shows is that the tank farms presently represent an increased unacceptable risk of cancer to fence line neighborhoods. The solution is to require the capture of the harmful emissions using the best available control technology.

HEM-3, Human Exposure Model, is a model used to assess potential human health impacts from air emissions of hazardous air pollutants, HAPs and VOCs.


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