The health danger on your street corner

An everyday event in your neighborhood is creating a health menace that no one is noticing. You should be aware of how it may endanger your health and what you can do about it.

A study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health demonstrates that the frequent, very small, spills of gasoline at gas stations as drivers fill their tanks is contaminating soil and water that may be negatively affecting nearby residents.

“Gas station owners have worked very hard to prevent gasoline from leaking out of underground storage tanks,” says researcher Markus Hilpert. “But our research shows we should also be paying attention to the small spills that routinely occur when you refill your vehicle’s tank.”

During a span of several years, according to Hilpert, the concrete pads supporting the pumps can soak up a surprisingly large amount of gasoline. Gradually, this gasoline penetrates and seeps through the concrete and enters the earth and water below the station. If you use well water in the neighborhood of the station, carcinogenic chemicals from the gasoline may be in your water.

The Hopkins researchers note that, on average, about 1,500 liters of gasoline are spilled by customers at gas stations every 10 years.

“Even if only a small percentage reaches the ground, this could be problematic because gasoline contains harmful chemicals including benzene, a known human carcinogen,” Hilpert says.

“When gasoline spills onto concrete, the droplet will eventually disappear from the surface. If no stain is left behind, there has been a belief that no gasoline infiltrated the pavement, and all of it evaporated,” says Hilpert. “According to our laboratory-based research and supported by our mathematical model, this assumption is incorrect. Our experiments suggest that even the smallest gasoline spills can have a lasting impact.”

If you use well water, and there are gas stations in your vicinity, have your water checked periodically to make sure it is safe.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.