Mesquite, NM is home to a chemical storage facility that is known for mixing chemicals to be sold as fertilizers and pesticides. Residents experience odors and occasional acute health effects.
Residents have documented odors, which include a pesticide and a chemical like smell; both are commonly associated with headaches and respiratory problems. The Mesquite Bucket Brigade has collected 3 samples to date. The lab analysis of the first two shows a mix of three different chemicals and three tentatively identified compounds (TICs). We are still awaiting lab analysis of the third sample.
Toluene: is a clear, colorless liquid with a distinctive smell. Toluene occurs naturally in crude oil and in the tolu tree. It is also produced in the process of making gasoline and other fuels from crude oil and making coke from coal.
Toluene may affect the nervous system. Low to moderate levels can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss. These symptoms usually disappear when exposure is stopped. Inhaling high levels of toluene in a short time can make you feel light-headed, dizzy, or sleepy. It can also cause unconsciousness, and even death. High levels of toluene may affect your kidneys.
Carbonyl Sulfide (can be traced to herbicides): Carbonyl sulfide is metabolized to hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Hydrogen sulfide is thought to be primarily responsible for the toxic effects. There is limited information on the acute toxicity of carbonyl sulfide in humans. Available information indicates that inhalation exposure to high (unspecified) concentrations of carbonyl sulfide can be fatal, the same as those seen with hydrogen sulfide, but initial irritation to skin, eyes, and respiratory tract is less, resulting in less warning. Lower levels of carbonyl sulfide can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and muscle cramps.
The data collected by the Mesquite community bucket brigade was analyzed by Mark Chernaik, Ph.D. of Science for Citizens. We’ll let Dr. Chernaik provide a little more insight into the air samples that have been analyzed so far:
A moderate amount of ethanol was found in two of the three samples (from 20 Dec 2012 and 15 Jan 2013). A small amount of 2,4-dimethylheptane (as a tentatively identified substance) was also found in two of the three samples (also from 20 Dec 2012 and 15 Jan 2013).
I’ve never seen 2,4-dimethylheptane pop up in any other sample that [Global Community Monitor] partners have collected. So the result that 2 of 3 samples from near the Helena Chemical Company facility in Mesquite have 2,4-dimethylheptane added validity.
Tripropylene can be used as a surfactant, but I did not find it on EPA’s list of pesticide inert ingredients.
So, why we see tripropylene in two of the three samples from near the Helena Chemical Company facility in Mesquite is a mystery I can’t solve yet, unfortunately.
Fortunately, tripropylene doesn’t possess significant toxicity.