Xylenes have been detected in all 15 samples gathered by TCEQ inspectors in our community since February. Xylene levels were higher in samples analyzed by a private lab (21.7 ppb for m- and p-xylene; and 6.13 for o-xylene) than the state’s samples.
Detections of m- and p-xylene ranged from a high of .45 ppb on the Argyle High School parking lot to a low of .05 ppb near the Furst Compressor at Liberty Christian School.
For o-xylene, the detection levels ranged from a high of .15 ppb on the parking lot to a low of .02 ppb at several locations.
OSHA set the maximum allowable amount of xylene for an 8-hour workday in a 40-hour workweek (for a healthy, adult male) at 100 ppm.
The three forms of xylene – meta-xylene, ortho-xylene and para-xylene – are sweet-smelling hydrocarbons. Colorless and flammable, xylenes are used as solvents and also occur naturally with petroleum. Xylenes evaporate readily and break down in the air, so repeated detection likely means continuous emissions.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, here’s how xylenes can affect your health:
short-term exposure of people to high levels of xylene can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty in breathing; impaired function of the lungs; delayed response to a visual stimulus; impaired memory; stomach discomfort; and possible changes in the liver and kidneys. Both short- and long-term exposure to high concentrations of xylene can also cause a number of effects on the nervous system, such as headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, and changes in one’s sense of balance.
There are urine tests to determine xylene exposure, although they must be conducted within hours after exposure because they are quickly metabolized. Such urine tests cannot be used to predict health effects.