The JH Baxter plant, established in 1942, treats wood products such as utility poles and railroad ties with creosote and other chemicals. As part of the process, creosote and other fumes escape into the air.
Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) has received hundreds of complaints about the fumes over the years. The complaints range from eye irritation to difficulty in breathing.
How did EHAP become involved at J.H. Baxter?
In 2003, LRAPA requested EHAP's assistance in evaluating the potential health risks from JH Baxter's air emissions to nearby residents. EHAP completed this public health consultation in 2004 and found that there was not enough information to determine whether the facility's emissions represented a public health hazard.
During the investigation, EHAP received another request, this time from residents living near JH Baxter. Residents expressed concern that the rates of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and brain cancer in their neighborhoods were high and possibly caused by contaminants from JH Baxter and other nearby industries. EHAP was asked by residents to investigate local rates of these types of cancer to determine whether they were significantly elevated.
Although currently there is no recognized association between AML and brain cancer and the contaminants emitted from JH Baxter, EHAP agreed to address the community's concerns and conduct the investigation. See Eugene-area Cancer Investigation.
What are EHAP's current activities at J.H. Baxter?
Evaluation of Air Emissions
EHAP completed a follow-up public health consultation in 2007 that evaluated the impact of air emissions from the JH Baxter plant on the public's health. EHAP reviewed air samples collected by LRAPA and concluded that nearby residents of JH Baxter are not likely to experience health problems as a result of long-term exposure to the plant's emissions. A number of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) used in the wood preserving process were detected in the air samples.
Napthalene was found most frequently and at the highest levels. Although the levels of napthalene exceed health guidelines, these guidelines are designed to be health protective and levels just above the guidelines are not likely to result in adverse health effects.