Corrales Bucket Sample Results


Corrales Bucket Sample Results

Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) arranged for sixteen bucket samples to be taken in Corrales residential areas between May 9, 2001 and March 28, 2002. Each sample represents a snapshot of what was in the air during the 3-minute period that sample was being collected. Corrales residents usually collected bucket samples when they smelled an unpleasant odor.

Unfortunately, the human nose is a poor detector of toxic chemical compounds, as hazardous chemicals often lack an unpleasant odor. Moreover, these 16 bucket-sample measurements represent only 0.01 % of this 325-day period. Continuous, comprehensive measurements using an Open-Path FTIR, as recommended by EPA in their Standard Method TO-16, are essential to identify pollutants in the air we were breathing during the other 99.99% of the time.

The fact that so many Corrales residents are getting sick indicates a serious problem. Although Intel has not been proven to be the source of these pollutants, (1) people living closest to Intel have the most health problems, (2) their health problems coincide with strong chemical odors, and (3) subsequent review of New Mexico Environment Department records reveals that these illnesses generally occur during periods when Intel's pollution control equipment is not operating.

Because Intel's thermal oxidizers are designed to destroy 95% of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs), only 5% is released during normal operations. During periods of oxidizer malfunction, however, 100% of the VOCs is released, which is 20 times higher than normal. That most illnesses occur during these shutdowns is strong circumstantial evidence of Intel involvement.

Moreover, these bucket samples found seven of the compounds Intel is allowed to release by its new permit, and the NIOSH-listed symptoms for exposure to these compounds describe the health problems experienced by nearby Corrales residents, which makes it even more likely that Intel is the source of these pollution-related illnesses.

Although Intel has claimed bucket sample results are unreliable, Ed Masry, who heads the law firm that employs Erin Brockovich, developed these bucket sample systems. Mr. Masry has stated that the bucket sample results are not only reliable, they are admissible as evidence in legal proceedings, and have been used many times in this way.

Employee Exposures vs. Resident Exposures

Some comments are appropriate before we present our measured concentrations, and the odor descriptions and symptoms taken from the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards.

We had hoped to be able to compare our measured concentrations to safe exposure limits for residents; however, such guidelines exist only for employees, based on a 40-hour workweek. Unlike employees, residents may be continuously exposed to these toxic chemicals.

Furthermore, many of these chemicals have never been tested for safe exposure limits or health effects. And there are no studies of the health effects that could result from combinations of the individually tested chemicals.  The health problems reported may be the only evidence of toxicity for many chemicals whose individual and combined health risks have never been tested.

Recommended exposure limits for employees to toxic chemicals cannot be applied to nearby residents for many reasons:

1. Employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals for a maximum of 40 hours per week, whereas a nearby resident may be exposed continuously 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

2. Employees are given safety training, about the hazardous compounds he or she may work with. Moreover, the employer should have monitoring equipment to signal the presence of dangerous levels, and also protective clothing including respirators and even self-contained breathing suits if conditions warrant them. Residents receive no comparable protection.

3. Employees receive compensation and other benefits in exchange for accepting certain risks and inconvenience associated with the job. A nearby resident receives no such compensation. In fact, nearby residents pay a severe economic penalty when they try to sell homes located near Intel. 

4. Finally, and most important, an employee who feels his job subjects him to unacceptable risks can always quit. The only way nearby residents can escape is to sell their homes and move. And, as already noted, they generally receive much less than the fair market value of a similar home located far from Intel. 

Bucket Sample Analyses

All bucket samples, collected and retained in sealed Tedlar bags, were sent to Performance Analytical Laboratory in Simi Valley, CA. They were analyzed using EPA Standard Method TO-15, in which the gaseous components are separated on a gas chromatography column and measured with a mass spectrometric detector, a technique known as GCMS.

Identified Compounds, Concentrations, and Symptoms

Compounds Authorized by Intel's New Permit

Acetone was found in all 16 samples; concentrations ranged from a low of 10 to a high of 29. (The units in all cases are micrograms per cubic meter.) The average concentration was 18. NIOSH describes acetone as having a fragrant, mint-like odor. NIOSH symptoms include irritated eyes, nose, and throat; headache; dizziness; nervous system depression; dermatitis.

Isopropanol was found in 11 of the 16 samples; concentrations ranged from 10 to 300, with an average of 75. The odor of isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) is well known. NIOSH symptoms include irritated eyes, nose, and throat; headache; dizziness; dry cracking skin: and narcosis in animals.

Toluene was found in 14 of the 16 samples; concentrations ranged from 5.2 to 18, with an average of 10. NIOSH lists toluene as having a sweet, pungent odor. NIOSH symptoms include irritated eyes and nose; headache; confusion; dizziness; anxiety; dermatitis, and liver and kidney damage.

Ethanol was found in 10 of the 16 samples; concentrations ranged from 20 to 50, with an average of 34. The odor and effects of ethanol are well known, and it is not considered to be a particular hazard at low concentrations. We list ethanol only to be complete in our results.

Methylene chloride was found in 3 of the 16 samples; concentrations ranged form 5.9 to 13, with an average of 8.5. NIOSI-I describes methylene chloride as having a chloroform-like odor. NIOSH symptoms include irritated eyes and skin; dizziness and nausea and is a potential carcinogen for lung, liver, and breast cancers.

Benzene was found in 2 of the 16 samples, with concentrations of 5.7 and 9.0. NIOSH describes benzene as having an aromatic odor. NIOSH symptoms include irritated eyes, nose and throat; dizziness; headache; nausea and dermatitis. Benzene is a known carcinogen that causes leukemia.

Xylene was found in only one of the 16 samples, at a concentration of 8.5. NIOSH describes the odor of xylene as aromatic. NIOSH symptoms include irritated eyes, nose, skin, and throat; dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and dermatitis.

Compounds Not Authorized by Intel's New Permit

Carbon disulfide was found in 4 of the 16 samples; concentrations ranged from 3.6 to 6.5, with an average of 5.2. NIOSH describes carbon disulfide as having a sweet, ether-like odor. NIOSH symptoms include dizziness, headache, poor sleep, burning eyes, dermatitis, kidney and liver damage, and reproductive effects.

2-Methylpentane was found in 7 of the 16 samples; concentrations ranged from 9 to 40, with an average of 19. This compound is not listed by NIOSH, so we cannot provide odor or symptom information. Although 2-methylpentane is not authorized by Intel's permit, it does allow them to emit 2,2,4-trimethylpentane. Therefore, the 2-methylpentane may have been formed from trimethylpentane.

Carbonyl sulfide was found twice at concentrations of 7.2 and 9.3. Carbonyl sulfide is another compound for which NIOSH has no listing, so we cannot provide odor or symptom information.

2-ethyl-1-hexanol, 1-butoxy-2-propanol, butylated hydroxytoluene were each found once. Although Intel could be the source of one or more or these, we lack sufficient evidence at this time to make such allegations. None of these compounds is listed by NIOSH, so we cannot provide odor or symptom information.

Two silicon-containing compounds, not authorized by Intel's permit, were found. These were silane and hexamethylcyclotrisiloxane. Silane was found twice at concentrations of 20 and 70, whereas hexamethylcyclotrisiloxane appeared only once at a concentration of 10. These are among the compounds for which NIOSH has no listing, so we cannot provide odor or symptom information.

However, because the Intel facility converts silicon wafers to silicon microchips, Intel is the only reasonable source of these two compounds. Even if these are reaction products of dichlorosilane that Intel is authorized to release, the release of either of these unauthorized compounds would be a permit violation. Such compounds could not possibly come from a service station, dry cleaner, sewage plant, crematorium, skunk, among other possibilities Intel has tried to blame.

We also found trace amounts of many long-chain hydrocarbons and highly branched hydrocarbons that are typical components of gasoline. Thus, gasoline vapors are readily detectable, although they are easily distinguished from definite Intel emissions, probable Intel emissions, and possible Intel emissions.


These 16 bucket sample results have shown: (1) Chemicals that Intel is known to use and release can easily be measured in nearby residential areas, contrary to Intel's claims. (2) Traces of gasoline components are often found; however, these are easily distinguished from Intel emissions, again contrary to Intel's claims. (3) Specific other chemicals were found, for which Intel is the only reasonable source. (4) If Intel is releasing these unauthorized chemical compounds, such releases constitute permit violations. (5) The NIOSH symptoms for the compounds found in these bucket samples describe the symptoms reported by Corrales residents who live near Intel, (6) Finally, although our 16 bucket sample measurements cannot provide all of the information we seek, they confirm the presence of toxic pollutants and demonstrate the need for continuous monitoring with a comprehensive instrument, such as an Open-Path FTIR.