This is how scientists are monitoring air after Deer Park chemical fire

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

DEER PARK, Texas - While local and county officials have maintained the air is safe after a chemical fire burned for nearly three days in Deer Park, some still question the air quality.

A group from UT-Health School of Public Health said they were curious and started tracking the air conditions Tuesday.

Assistant professor Dr. Inkyu Han said they'll have collect data for another week so they can compare the levels.

The scientists said they don't want to jump to conclusions before the study is complete, but at the same time said the readings seem pretty normal.

Of course, normal is different for someone who has a breathing disease or asthma.

"I was curious about the potential impact to the communities nearby," Han said.

After several chemical storage tanks caught fire at Intercontinental Terminals Company, Han assembled a team of students to monitor the air quality in the area.

"We're pretty much there to look and see if there's any aberrations or any outliers," graduate student Eduardo Reyes said.

Reyes spent Wednesday babysitting monitors that log data every minute. The equipment tracks the air for  pollutants such as particulate matter and volatile organic compounds. In other words: harmful chemicals.

"This is kind of like the beginning phase. Once we collected all the data, they can analyze it and see if it's different from what you would see on a normal day," Reyes said.

Valentino Melchor lives in the area and was concerned for his family's health during the chemical fire. He said he was glad to see the group conducting a study close to his home.

"They're independent. They don't have nothing to gain and nothing to lose," Melchor said.

Melchor said while the chemical fire was burning, his wife complained of a scratchy throat. Even though officials said their air-monitor readings came back safe, he was skeptical.

"We're here for the public. We take strong interest into our communities and we want to do whatever we can to educate the public and make them feel safe," Reyes said.

They also had a group on the other side of town. Han said the group plans to collect samples every day for a week. He said it could take at least a couple weeks to analyze the data.

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