13 U.S Refineries Emit Cancer-causing Benzene


On Wednesday, the green group Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) published data that stated the names and the number of the oil refineries releasing cancer-causing chemical benzene in concentration exceeding federal limits in the U.S, last year. Although the companies are not breaking the law, the EIP  requires them to analyze and reduce these emissions.

The group reviewed a full year of data reported by U.S refineries to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Back in 2015, EPA required continuous air monitoring at the fence lines of oil refinery plants to protect nearby communities, composed of poor Black and Hispanic.

Effects of benzene

Not only does benzene cause cancer, but it also causes non-cancer issues that are hard to quantify. According to Erick Schaeffer, the executive producer of EIP, people can get sick from low levels in the long term or high levels in the short term.

Study shows, benzene is one of the dangerous pollutants that turn into gasoline and other products. According to research by EPA, the population living near these oil refineries have worse asthma and respiratory problems. Additionally, benzene harms cell processes, whereby it keeps bone marrow from producing enough red blood cells and damages immune systems, consequently increasing the risk of infections.

The Companies Emitting Benzene

Although some companies have made improvements, others are still emitting benzene at harmful rates. According to EIP, five of the refineries producing benzene are in Louisiana. Speaking during a call with reporters, the director of the anti-pollution group Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Ann Rolfes, stated that the state regulators had failed to reign in serial benzene polluters. “clearly we are in a calamitous situation here,” Ann said.

Delek’s (DK.N) Krotz Springs, located in Louisiana, was the highest emitter of benzene in 2020. According to EIP, the refinery produced more than 31micrograms per cubic meter, which is more than three times the EPA’s action level. The other four Louisiana refineries were PBF Chalmette, Phillips 66 Lake Charles, Phillips 66 Alliance, and Shell Norco.

In Texas, the companies that exceeded the federal levels were Total Port Arthur, Marathon Galveston Bay and Citgo Corpus Christi East. Other refineries are from various states e.g, Shell Chemical Mobile in Alabama, HollyFrontier Lovington and HollyFrontier Artesia in New Mexico, and Marathon Catlettsburg in Kentucky.

“If ,” the Biden EPA wants to act on its environmental justice promises, these neighborhoods near refineries are a great place to start. A staff engineer at EIP named Benjamin Kunstman told Reuters.