Public Lab Research note

Benzene Air Monitors For Fenceline Communities

by MsSema | November 20, 2020 19:47 20 Nov 19:47 | #25090 | #25090

MsSema was awarded the Watchdog Barnstar by amocorro for their work in this research note.


Our environmental justice coalition organizers realized there was a need for Benzene monitors that provide accurate and real-time data when there is a petrochemical disaster.

Our main concern:

Our main concern is that fenceline community do not have air toxicity data and proper safety information to protect themselves to the toxic hazards during a petrochemical disaster.

Obstacles and supporting information:

There aren't public owned or community owned and operated benzene air monitors. The current benzene monitors are owned and operated by the petrochemical industries operating in our communities. When the ITC Fire that happened on March 2019, the benzene monitors were taken off-line when the benzene levels started to rise. The response from the county was inadequate, county officials had never prepared for this or any kind of petrochemical disaster in decades despite several petrochemical fire or leaks that have been reported in the past.

Who is engaged in this concern?

Local community members are involved in coming up with the concept. We partnered up with a nonprofit tech organization to develop the hardware and coding language for a mobile alert system and data.

What are the initial questions?

Who is at risk during a petrochemical disaster?

How many benzene air monitors do we need in our communities?

Are there other toxic chemicals?

What does the data mean?

How do are fenceline community members notified of petrochemical disaster, benzene levels or other toxic chemicals detected in their area?

What options do fenceline community members have to protect themselves besides shelter-in-place?

What to do after benzene/or toxic air exposure?


Hi @MsSema, what an incredible post!

I would love to chat with you about this project. Public Lab has been working on getting the bucket air monitor in the store, which is a low-cost analog whole air sampler that also does benzene (along with like 96 other chemicals). Many of the issues you raise are things we've been trying to document as part of that project, including the specific interest in benzene in fenceline communities.

Here is a link to the wiki: And to some of the resources:

If you have interest, I'd love to maybe join forces on collecting some of these resources together. We are doing an OpenHour call on fenceline air quality monitoring on December 9 and would love to invite your group to participate.

@A_SCH @eustatic @bhamster

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@amocorro awards a barnstar to MsSema for their awesome contribution!

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oh yes, great question.

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Thanks Sema! This is great. I look forward to seeing responses and affordable accessible community monitors and data visualizations develop that monitor class A carcinogens in our air!

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