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EPA Response to Enbridge Spill in Michigan

Odor Information

An odor commonly associated with fresh crude oil is a "gas station-like" odor.

"Gas Station-Like" Odor

  • If you smell a ‘gas station’ like odor – the odor you might smell while filling up your car – it may be petroleum-related volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
  • Exposure to low levels of these VOCs may cause temporary irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin. It is possible that people with asthma may be more sensitive to the effect of inhaled VOCs. The VOC smell may give you a headache or upset stomach which would be expected to go away when you leave the area. If you are sensitive to VOCs, you should stay indoors to limit your exposure, close windows and doors, and set your air conditioner to a recirculation mode. The smell may become stronger if the wind or weather changes.
  • Historical data on oil spills indicate that VOCs are likely to evaporate, disperse and/or react quickly after the oil reaches the surface of the water.
  • EPA is monitoring the air and if we begin to detect VOC levels that may be harmful we will provide updates to the public. Benzene is a toxic petroleum-related VOC and is common in most oils.
  • Additional Information from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR):

 

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