2009 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 2009 09:35:55 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] A Stakeholder's Guide to Vapor Intrusion
[Please excuse the duplicate postings. - LS]

A Stakeholder's Guide to Vapor Intrusion
By Lenny Siegel
November 2009

Vapor intrusion refers to the migration of toxic vapors from the subsurface - that is, soil or groundwater - into homes, schools, and other overlying buildings. Though many substances, such as petroleum hydrocarbons and even elemental mercury, can intrude into buildings, sites that require a response usually contain chlorinated solvents - that is, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetracholoroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene or PCE). TCE was widely used as a solvent in industries such as aerospace and electronics, but in recent years a relatively small number of businesses, primarily in metals processing, continue to use it. It is still found in consumer products such as gun cleaner and plastic cement. PCE is still widely used in dry-cleaning and automotive servicing. Toxic compounds found in petroleum products, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX), may also pose a vapor intrusion risk, but they tend to pose less of a risk because they normally degrade near the ground surface as they come into contact with atmospheric oxygen.

While individual scientists and some states, such as Massachusetts and Colorado, have been addressing vapor intrusion since the since the 1990s, vapor intrusion started to become a standard part of contaminated-site response in 2001, when U.S. EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program stipulated such an assessment for all Environmental Indicator human health decisions. In early 2002, the Denver Post brought national attention to the problem with a landmark series on vapor intrusion. Since then environmental regulatory agencies across the country - U.S. EPA and most states - have developed technical and policy guidance for investigating and mitigating toxic gas vapors. Thousands of officials and consultants attend frequent conferences and workshops on the subject. Vapor intrusion responses are often major local news stories. But many Americans who are potentially exposed via the vapor intrusion pathway do not know about it, and many who know about it do not understand the many complexities involved in assessing and responding to vapor intrusion.




Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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