Toxic formaldehyde levels found in the air in neighborhoods near Houston Ship Channel

HOUSTON – According to the Houston Health Department, a new environmental study shows several communities near the Houston Ship Channel have been shown through portable air pollution monitors to have levels of formaldehyde in the air.

The health department says the formaldehyde has not been leaking from petrochemical plants in the area, but other gases emitted from those plants combine in the atmosphere to produce formaldehyde.

Eunice Ayala is angry about the situation.

She lives in the Cloverleaf community where those formaldehyde levels were found to be the highest, more than 13 times what the EPA considers safe.

“I don’t want my children to go outside in this because of that. I don’t want to expose us to breathing air that is not clean. I am afraid my children could get cancer. This needs to stop,” Eunice said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner is now calling on the TCEQ to take action and prevent these petrochemical plants from spewing gases into the air that, when combined together form formaldehyde. He said these pollutions endanger the health of the poorest and minority families living in neighborhoods like Cloverleaf, Manchester, Meadowbrook, Harrisburg, Allendale, Northshore and Galena Park.

Other leaders are also worried.

“Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and the families that are exposed to this toxic gas over a lifetime are at far greater risk of developing cancer,” said Tom Pelton with Environmental Integrity Project.

“Formaldehyde is an emerging chemical of concern in Houston, and these new data should be valuable to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the EPA to help strengthen air pollution regulations and controls to better protect public health,” said Loren Hopkins, the Chief Environmental Science Officer for the Houston Health Department.

As for Ayala and her husband Antonio, they just want to be able to breathe clean air along with their four young children.

“I want my children to be safe,” Eunice said.

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