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About the Issue: Air Quality Standards and Intel

Fluorides and hydrogen fluoride
Fluorides are organic and inorganic compounds that contain fluorine and dissolve in water and release a fluoride ion. For regulatory purposes, fluorides do not include hydrogen fluoride. Both fluorides and hydrogen fluoride are air pollutants, but state and federal permitting programs treat them differently. Fluorides are classified as a regulated pollutant and in Oregon are subject to DEQ’s plant site emission limit rules. Hydrogen fluoride is a hazardous air pollutant. In general, plant site emission limits are not established for specific hazardous air pollutants.

Health effects of fluorides and hydrogen fluoride
Intel emits fluorides and hydrogen fluoride from its manufacturing operations. These emissions are first treated in pollution control systems. Pollution control systems are not perfect, so facility operations still emit some fluorides and hydrogen fluoride. The fluorides and hydrogen fluoride disperse into the air and are diluted to still lower concentrations the further they travel. People living and working near Intel’s manufacturing operations may be exposed to low concentrations of fluorides and hydrogen fluoride. Both fluorides and hydrogen fluoride are very water-soluble and are washed out of the air by rain and may accumulate on vegetation and in the soil. Through the public process DEQ heard many people express concern about acute exposure to the pollutants Intel emits. Acute exposure refers to a short term exposure to a substance, often at a relatively high concentration. This type of exposure generally results from hazardous material spills, or when workplace accidents occur. Normal operation of a manufacturing facility does not generally result in a short term, high concentration exposure. Depending on the amount of pollutant emitted and local weather patterns emissions from normal operations may result in chronic or long term, low concentration exposure. Chronic exposure refers to long term exposure to a substance, generally at relatively low concentrations. Chronic exposure to relatively low concentrations of air pollutants is very common  around the world. There are many sources of air pollutants that result in chronic exposure. Such sources include residential wood combustion, manufacturing operations, automobiles, paint shops, consumer products and dry cleaners.

Air quality standards for fluorides and hydrogen fluoride
National Ambient Air Quality Standards have not been established for fluorides or hydrogen fluoride. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the common air pollutants particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone. These ambient air quality standards are set at levels that are intended to protect human health and the environment. DEQ conducts ambient air quality monitoring to determine if the National Ambient Air Quality Standards are being met. If these standards are not met in an area, DEQ must take action to reduce emissions in that area so that the air quality standards will be met. Oregon has set an air toxics benchmark for hydrogen fluoride of 14 micrograms per cubic meter air of air over an annual averaging period. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram. A benchmark is an advisory goal that DEQ has set, but unlike an air quality standard, there are no laws that require the benchmark to be met. Oregon does not currently have a benchmark set for fluorides. The Oregon Air Toxics Program web page has more information about air toxics benchmarks and sources of potential chronic exposure to air toxics.