DEQ Laboratory releases air toxics monitoring summary

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality released its 2018 Oregon Air Toxics Monitoring Summary for six locations around the state, including The Dalles, La Grande and four sites in the Portland-metro area. The goal was to determine concentrations in certain communities, including urban and rural areas, and compare the results. DEQ will use the information to track pollution and determine ways to reduce air toxics in Oregon. Data showed that no air toxics were found at levels that would pose an immediate health risk.

“With resources provided by Oregon’s Legislature, DEQ has been able to set up and operate these air toxics monitoring sites and analyze an enormous amount of data,” said Lori Pillsbury, division administrator, Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division. “This gives us insights and opportunities to compare air quality in a variety of locations.”

“In addition to sharing this information with the public, DEQ can use it to instruct and update our strategies for decreasing air toxics in Oregon’s environment,” Pillsbury said.

DEQ’s Lab collected approximately 60 samples at each site – one every six days – for at least a year. The data was taken between 2016 and 2018. The six locations monitored included:

  • SE 45th and Harney (Portland-metro neighborhood)
  • Cully (Portland-metro neighborhood)
  • Gresham (Portland-metro neighborhood)
  • Humboldt (Portland-metro neighborhood)
  • La Grande (North Hall St. and East N Ave.)
  • The Dalles (Wasco County Library)

The monitors tested for 109 pollutants in ambient – or surrounding — air. Of these, 28 have air toxics benchmarks, known officially as Ambient Benchmark Concentrations. Only seven pollutants were above their benchmarks. Benchmarks are concentrations at which no harm should come to the health of even sensitive populations, including children, the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions. Air pollutants come from various sources in a community. As such, monitoring and results were not assigned to a specific facility or source.

Additional details include the following:

  • Six air toxics were found at levels above their benchmarks at all monitoring locations – arsenic, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, naphthalene, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. That means these pollutants are present at levels above benchmarks in both urban and rural areas.
  • Ethylbenzene measured at levels above its benchmark at three of the monitoring sites in the Portland-metro area: SE 45th and Harney, Cully and Gresham. It was found at levels below its benchmark in The Dalles, La Grande and Humboldt.
  • The average levels of arsenic were higher in the Portland-metro area sites than in The Dalles and La Grande, which are more rural.
  • Benzene was above its benchmark at every site, likely due to vehicle emissions.
  • The average levels of three air toxics – naphthalene, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde – were higher at The Dalles monitoring site compared to all other sites.

DEQ currently implements several programs to help reduce air toxics emissions, including Cleaner Air Oregon, Vehicle Inspection Program, the Oregon Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, the Heat Smart Program for buying, selling or removing wood stoves and more.

DEQ selects annual air toxics monitoring locations based on several factors, including sources of pollution, number of pollutants, relative toxicity, lack of information, community factors and agency program and regional needs. Monitors are currently situated in Eugene, Medford and La Grande, as well as Cully, Hillsboro and Tualatin in the Portland-metro. The next air toxics monitoring report will be released late this year and will include data from samples collected through December 2019.

To view Oregon DEQ’s 2018 Oregon Air Toxics Monitoring Summary, go to

– Susan C. Mills, public affairs specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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