NPR, November 13, 2017
Rebecca Hersher


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[...] Hurricane Harvey caused industrial facilities in Texas to release an extra 5.98 million pounds of pollution into the air, according to the most recent analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund: the pollutants benzene and toluene, both carcinogens, as well as a brew of other chemicals that can irritate eyes and exacerbate respiratory problems.

But for days after the flooding began, the residents of Galena Park and other neighboring communities had little or no information about the air they were breathing. Air monitors scattered across the region were taken out of service, to protect them from storm damage, officials say.

The Environmental Protection Agency, university teams and environmental groups did some air testing while the monitors were down, but the limited effort produced far less information than the permanent air monitoring network would have.

The EPA opted to wait until the majority of the monitors were back up and running — about a week — to begin releasing statements to the public about air quality. [...]

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