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Air Quality/industrial white smoke


hi i live in the united states and i was wondering if you could help me with my question.i am a mom to two kids and we were recently in our local town doing some shopping when i could see clouds of white smoke coming from some indusrtial buildings that were a little bit away.i know one of the buildings is an oil refinery and the other is a chemical plant,i would like to know how dangerous this smoke is that we are breathing in,and should'nt there be some regulations that this smoke should not be so toxic to the general public.i know we cant stay inside all day and we probably breathe in a whole lot of bad stuff each day ,but i was really worried when i saw so much of this white smoke,if you can help me in any way with my question i would really appreciate it

Good evening Michelle

Thanks for your question.

Couple of things here.

I've had a quick spin around the EPAs webpages In order to see what's what.  What I can tell you is that oil refineries  are regulated therefore any emissions or pollution from the plant should be at a level that is of low risk to public health.  There is a lot of information on the EPA site.  I've referred people to it before and as long as you start with the community based info it's seems quite easy for the lay person to get along with it.  

This part of the site lets you put in your zip code.

I suggest you do this and see what comes up.  If you have a specific query about a specific plant near you I might be able to assist further.

On the matter of the white smoke.  I cannot tell you what it is but the most likely this is steam or water vapour.  If you are really concerned I would give the local EPA office  a call.  I don't know how they react to complaints or enquiries but generally speaking people in public roles should be able to reassure you.

I hope this points you in the right direction.



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Rob Gibson


I have expertise in effects of air pollution on LOCAL communities. I would be gratful if you could make the enquiry as specific as possible. Such questions as "please tell me about air pollution" are not helpful & will have to point you to various texts in libraries. I look forward to hearing from you


Experience in the area I have expertise in effects of air pollution on LOCAL communities. I have a good grasp on what will affect human health in the air pollution sphere and how to gain improvements. I can also with general air pollution related queries and certain specific problems, for example those air pollution problems caused by TRANSPORT related sources. My main interest is related to AVIATION on which I can also advise on NOISE related matters. I am based in the United Kingdom so most of my knowledge is related to the UK situationOrganisations belong to I am honorary secretary of the south east region of the National Society of Clean Air and Environmental Protection within the UK Education/Credentials Degree from University of Bradford and more importantly seven / eight years dealing with air pollution and noise related matters at the Terminal 5 public inquiry at Heathrow.

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