Oil Refinery Emissions Suspect in PA Lung Disease CasesJan 19, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
Are oil refinery emissions in Marcus Hook, PA causing residents there to develop serious lung problems? Apparently, some residents of the Delaware county, PA community have reported symptoms such as chronic coughing, headaches and fatigue. These symptoms are often associated with a serious lung ailment called sarcoidosis.
Recently, one of the refineries in the Marcus Hook area - Sunoco's - was fined for illegal air emissions by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The fines just came after Sunoco reported several air-emission releases in 2008 to the agency. Those incidents occurred as follows:
• In May 2008, according to DEP, a boiler malfunction released 8.3 tons of carbon monoxide.
• In June 2008, two incidents resulted in 18.1 tons of volatile organic compounds being released into the air, as well as 1,300 gallons of oil.
• In December 2008, another 3.93 tons of nitrogen oxide and 8.09 tons of volatile organic compounds were released into the atmosphere after a compressor shutdown.
DEP inspectors also found numerous air permit and storage tank violations during that time period. Violations that occurred in June, September and November 2008 allegedly involved seal problems and an unreported oil leak. Sunoco was cited for not performing various inspections of instruments, tank hatches and ventilation systems.
Sarcoidosis is a disease that results from inflammation of tissues of the body. It can appear in almost any body organ, but most often starts in the lungs or lymph nodes. The disease can appear suddenly and disappear, or it can develop little by little and go on to produce symptoms that come and go, sometimes for a lifetime. As sarcoidosis progresses, small lumps, or granulomas, appear in the affected tissues. In the majority of cases, these granulomas clear up, either with or without treatment. In the few cases where the granulomas do not heal and disappear, the tissues tend to remain inflamed and become scarred (fibrotic).
Though the exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown, it is believed to be caused through an alteration in the immune response after exposure to an environmental, occupational, or infectious agent.