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Assessing Outdoor Air Near Schools

Olean Middle School - Olean, NY

Results and Analysis of EPA’s monitoring

EPA selected this school for monitoring because it is located near a rubber and plastics manufacturing facility that is a source of air toxics emissions. Computer models were used to determine which air toxics may be present at elevated levels in the outdoor air near the school. These models showed that diisocyanates (hexamethylene-1,6-diisocyanate (1,6-HDI), methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), and 2,4-toluene diisocyanate (2,4-TDI)) could be present in the air around the school and prompted EPA to test to see if the levels present may be of concern. 

Primary Findings Monitors located at the school did not detect any 2,4-TDI in any samples.
Pollutants Monitored
2,4-TDI.  Inhalation may affect the respiratory system if people are exposed to high levels.
Next Steps EPA will not extend air toxics monitoring at Olean Middle School at this time. 

EPA remains concerned about emissions from sources of air toxics and continues to work to reduce those emissions across the country, through national rules and by providing information and suggestions to assist with reductions in local areas.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) will continue to oversee the manufacturing facility through air permits and other programs. 

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Summary of Study Approach and Findings


  • A monitor collected air samples from July 30, 2009 through October 28, 2009 at the Olean Middle School in Olean, New York.  2,4-TDI was the key pollutant of interest. 
  • We posted individual air sample results on this website throughout the monitoring period to keep your community informed during the monitoring period.
  • During the monitoring period, we evaluated the monitored concentrations to see if there was a concern from short-term exposures (e.g., several weeks).
  • When the monitoring was complete, we analyzed the results to see if there was a concern from long-term exposures (over a lifetime).
  • Also, when the monitoring was complete, we evaluated all the air samples from the on-site monitor. We also evaluated information on wind speed and wind direction from a weather monitor at the school, along with historical weather information and information from the nearby plastics manufacturing facility.


  • Our analysis found no detectable levels of2,4-TDI in the air at the school.
  • The analysis indicates that 2,4-TDI concentrations in the air near the school are not influenced by a nearby plastics manufacturing facility.
  • The concentrations of 2,4-TDI measured at the school are lower than those suggested by the information that helped identify this school for monitoring.
  • The process to identify schools for monitoring relied on emissions estimates and other information. Ambient air monitoring at the school allowed measurement of what was actually in the air.
  • The most recently available 2,4-TDI emissions estimates for the nearby facility from the 2008 TRI are much lower than the estimates used to identify this school for monitoring. 
  • Because the monitors did not detect any 2,4-TDI, EPA will not extend air toxics monitoring at Olean Middle School.
  • Click here for additional information

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How We Analyzed the Information We Collected at this School

The analysis considered whether the information collected at the school might raise concerns for the health of children or adults at the school. We looked at the following types of information:

  • Measured 2,4-TDI concentrations and information on 2,4-TDI
  • Measured wind direction and wind speed at the school
  • Information about nearby sources 2,4-TDI emissions

Analysis of Measured 2,4-TDI Concentrations:

Result: 2,4-TDI was not detected. 

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Analysis of Measured Wind Direction and Wind Speed at the School

We took measurements of wind direction and speed every day during the sample period. We took special note of the wind speed and direction on the days we took measurements of 2,4-TDI.

What we looked at What we found
We looked at whether the wind data taken on the days we took measurements of 2,4-TDI are similar or different from the wind patterns during the entire sampling period. We found the wind patterns taken on the days we took measurements of 2,4-TDI to be generally similar to those observed during the entire sampling period.
We looked at whether the wind pattern during the sampling period is similar or different from wind patterns over the long term. We do not have a full year of wind data at this school.  However, based on wind data in the general region, we concluded that wind patterns over the sampling period were generally similar to the long-term patterns for the region. 

Analysis of Information on Nearby Source of 2,4-TDI Emissions

What we looked at What we found
Whether we could determine if the source was operating as usual during the sampling period. With the exception of two sampling days, this facility was operating at normal capacity during the sampling period.  There were no detections of any 2,4-TDI.
The nearby source of 2,4-TDI has operating permits issued by the State of New York that includes operating requirements. 
After further evaluation, NYSDEC and EPA determined the potential for elevated concentrations of 2,4-TDI was directly related to inflated and incorrect emission inventory information that was reported to the TRI by the source.  This incorrect information was used in the modeling analysis for the schools selection.

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Additional Information

Technical Report for School: Assessing Outdoor Air Near Schools: Olean Middle School (Olean, NY) (PDF) (17pp, 119k). The technical report is geared toward risk assessors, risk managers, and other regulatory agencies. 

Background on School Monitoring Effort

General Questions and Answers for School Monitoring Effort

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