Residents were told to stay inside due to elevated levels of benzene. Nearby school districts were canceled because of “unfavorable air quality conditions.” Additionally, residents experienced symptoms like headaches, nose bleeds, nausea.
Long-term exposure to these chemicals could lead to blood or bone marrow disorders.
Jeff Lindner, meteorologist with Harris County’s flood control agency believes that the intensity of the fire pushed the chemicals into the atmosphere and away from the residents of Houston.
Residents don’t feel confident about this. “Everything has been wrapped up in this nice perfect bow in saying that there were no problems. Every air quality [test] was perfect,” said Terri Garcia.
The fire started Sunday and wasn’t extinguished until Wednesday. A dark plume of smoke lingered over the fourth largest city in America for days. The fire spread to storage tanks holding gasoline and materials used in nail polish remover, glue, and paint thinner.
Bryan Parras, with the Sierra Club, has concerns about the air quality and environmental impact on the fishing industry. What if the chemicals from the storage facility or the foam used to fight the fire ended up in the Gulf of Mexico?
Parras said, “This issue isn’t over just because the fire is out. We want systems in place that will protect our communities.”