Since August of 2015, residents in the Jantzen Beach area of the Columbia River have been reporting noxious odors that are negatively affecting their health. Reports include headaches, nausea, and tightness in chest. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine where the odors are coming from.
In late September 2015, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) became involved at the request of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement. EPA asked for help addressing reports from residents that indicated more serious health effects from malodors and/or chemicals coming from industries in North Portland.
ATSDR’s role is and will continue to be as advisors to state and local health and environmental partners. As a public health agency, ATSDR provides recommendations to environmental agencies in identifying, quantifying, and reducing emissions; takes steps to further the understanding of exposures and health risks and address community concerns.
Letter Health Consultation
In mid-March 2016, at the request of Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and later by Multnomah County Health Department (MCHD), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) assessed the potential health risks to residents from exposure to chemicals emitted by the two oil re-refineries. Based on an evaluation of EPA’s real-time air monitoring results, ATSDR analyzed the data, and wrote a “letter health consultation” (LHC) based on their findings.
Jantzen Beach Letter Health Consultation (LHC) from ATSDR - 2016
Questions and Answers about the LHC
A note about odors:
Generally, we can smell many hazardous substances before they are at harmful levels. However, malodors can decrease a person’s sense of well-being and generate a sense of unease, and sometimes even danger. Unwanted, nuisance odors can also negatively affect a person’s quality of life and induce symptoms such as stress, nausea, fear, headaches, and loss of sleep.
For more information, see OHA’s Odors and Your Health factsheet.
To search hazardous substances by their odor characteristics see ATSDR's Odors Database.