Independent air monitoring finds radioactive particles ‘that no one has had on their radar
Nonprofit releases results from first year of air pollution study, calls for more regulation
A year-long air monitoring project in Commerce City found there are more harmful pollutants in the air than people realize, and advocates say federal and state environmental authorities are not doing enough to regulate those emissions and protect people’s health.
Those pollutants include newly discovered radioactive particles detected in a monitoring station positioned downwind from the Suncor Energy refinery. Detlev Helmig, a scientist who runs Boulder AIR, which performs the monitoring, said the airborne radioactive particles need more study to determine their source and exactly how much is being released into the air.
“Here in the middle of an area with 2 million people we have a source of radioactivity that no one has had on their radar,” Helmig said.
Cultivando, a Commerce City nonprofit that focuses on health equity in the Latino community, held a news conference Tuesday to discuss the findings of its air monitoring study. Cultivando was chosen to monitor air quality as part of a 2020 settlement with Suncor Energy over repeated pollution violations.
The study evaluated benzene, sulfur dioxide, soot, the radioactive particles and other particulate matter released by Suncor and other businesses in Commerce City. Suncor was not the only polluter discussed during the news conference, but it is one of the largest sources of pollution in Colorado. The study found others also are responsible for dirtying the air, including two propane distributors in the area.
In an emailed statement, Suncor spokeswoman Loa Esquilin Garcia said that its air monitoring system, which has been in place since August 2021, has found that “compounds measured in multiple north Denver communities have remained below acute and chronic health-protective guideline values routinely used by state and federal public health agencies.”