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Review of Air Data Air at and Near the
Barrie Park Former Manufactured Gas Plant Site
at South Lombard and Garfield Avenue



The Oak Park Health Department and residents living near Barrie Park asked the IllinoisDepartment of Public Health (IDPH) to review air data from past and current sampling at and near Barrie Park. This health consultation evaluates the potential for adverse human health effects if people are exposed to contaminants in the air at or near the Barrie Park site.


Site History

Barrie Park is an outdoor recreational area in Oak Park, Cook County, Illinois. A residentialneighborhood borders the 3.5-acre park on three sides (Attachment 1). The EisenhowerExpressway (I-290) borders the northern section of the site. Before 1930, the park was the site ofa manufactured gas plant, which left the soil contaminated by chemicals. The Village of OakPark purchased the property in 1959 and transferred it to the Park District of Oak Park in 1965.The site was leveled, regraded, seeded, and converted to a recreational park.

In August 1993, a contractor for Commonwealth Edison conducted ambient air sampling at andnear Barrie Park. The samples were analyzed for benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylenes,naphthalene, and 2-methylnaphthalene. Only traces of toluene and xylenes were found (Table 1). The park was used for sledding, ball games, and other activities until the park district closed it inDecember 1998(1).

Since then, Commonwealth Edison has sampled and removed contamination at the park as partof a voluntary cleanup with Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) oversight.Excavation begun in 2001 has included the removal of contaminated soil and below groundstructures and placement of large containment domes to reduce air emissions. Perimeter ambientair samples are taken daily as part of the remediation process (2).

The project ambient air quality standard (PAAQS) for benzene was set at 2.66 micrograms percubic meter (µg/m3), or about 0.8 parts per billion (ppb). The PAAQS for naphthalene was set at1.35 µg/m3 (about 0.25 ppb). During remediation efforts, average emission rates at the perimeterof the site were to remain below the PAAQS. The PAAQS were based on exposure of a 33pound child at the site fence line for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 18 months (2).

Because perimeter ambient air monitoring indicated levels of benzene and naphthalene above thePAAQS in early 2002, remediation work was discontinued (Table 2). All open excavations werecovered with a temporary clay cap (3). A larger containment dome was erected and remedialactivities resumed in February 2003. Remediation efforts were scheduled to continue until thefall of 2003, and park restoration is scheduled to continue into the summer of 2004.

Past Health Evaluations

In April 1999, the IDPH Division of Epidemiologic Studies released a report, "Incidence ofCancer in Zip Code 60304 of Oak Park, Illinois." According to the report, the differences inobserved and expected cancer cases for 1986 to 1996 were not statistically significant (4).

On September 2, 1999, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)released a health consultation prepared by IDPH that evaluated surface soil at the park. On thebasis of the data reviewed, IDPH concluded that exposure to the surface soil at the park did notpose a public health hazard. IDPH recommended additional off-site surface soil sampling (5).

On February 22, 2000, ATSDR released a health consultation prepared by IDPH that evaluatedresidential and parkway surface soil near Barrie Park. From the data reviewed, IDPH concludedthat there was not a public health hazard for exposure to surface soil in residential yards, Barrie Center, the Barrie Center Tot Lot, and the parkways (6).


IDPH compared the results of each air sample with the appropriate screening comparison values.Comparison values are used to select contaminants for further evaluation for carcinogenic andnoncarcinogenic health effects. Chemicals found at levels greater than comparison values orthose for which no comparison value exists were selected for further evaluation. A briefexplanation of each comparison value used is found in Attachment 2.

1993 Ambient Air Sampling

IDPH reviewed and evaluated the air sampling data collected in 1993; no chemicals of interestwere found. These are the only sampling data available for the ambient conditions at and near thepark before the park was closed.

2001-2003 Perimeter Sampling

IDPH reviewed and evaluated the perimeter air sampling data collected since the beginning ofexcavation activities in 2001. Data for benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylenes, and naphthalenewere available. During this period, only benzene and naphthalene exceeded comparison values. Area residents could be exposed to these chemicals in the air they breathe.


After excavation began, the highest level of benzene detected in perimeter samples was 39 µg/m3(12 ppb) on February 19, 2002. Although this maximum level exceeded the ATSDR guidancevalue of 10 ppb for chronic exposure (7), it did not exceed the acute comparison value of 50 ppb.Levels of benzene at the perimeter of the site exceeded 10 ppb on only 3 days in February 2002.No adverse effects would have been expected from acute exposure.

The perimeter average for benzene for the entire period of remediation to date is at or near thePAAQS of 2.66 µg/m3 (0.8 ppb). This is less than the ATSDR guidance value for chronicexposure, so long-term adverse health effects would not be expected. Also, no increased risk ofcancer would be expected from exposure to the level of benzene at the perimeter of theremediation area. As distance from the fence line increases, the levels of benzene should decreasebecause of dilution in air. Therefore, no increased risk of cancer would be expected fromexposure to benzene for nearby residents.


After excavation began, the highest level of naphthalene detected in the perimeter samples was14.9 µg/m3 (2.8 ppb) on February 8, 2002. The comparison value for chronic exposure wasexceeded only on February 8 and 12, 2002. No short-term adverse health effects would beexpected from exposure to the maximum detected levels in February 2002. The perimeteraverage for naphthalene for the entire period of remediation to date is less than the PAAQS of1.35 µg/m3 (0.25 ppb). No long-term adverse effects would be expected from chronic exposure.


IDPH presented health information and answered questions at the Barrie Park Citizens AdvisoryCommittee Meeting in Oak Park, May 22, 2003. Residents were concerned about exposure tobenzene in the air. IDPH staff gave a verbal presentation of the data evaluation presented in this health consultation.


In communities faced with exposure to environmental contamination, the many physicaldifferences between children and adults demand special emphasis. Children could be at greaterrisk than adults from certain kinds of exposure to hazardous substances. Children play outdoorsand sometimes engage in hand-to-mouth behaviors that increase their exposure potential.Children are shorter than adults; this means they breathe dust, soil, and vapors close to theground. A child's lower body weight and higher intake rate results in a greater dose of hazardoussubstance per unit of body weight. If toxic exposure levels are high enough during critical growthstages, the developing body systems of children can sustain permanent damage. Finally, childrenare dependent on adults for access to housing, for access to medical care, and for riskidentification. Thus adults need as much information as possible to make informed decisions regarding their children's health.

IDPH evaluated exposures using these child health considerations and determined that noadverse health effects would be expected for children exposed to the levels of chemicals detected in ambient air at or near Barrie Park.


The available data indicate that no apparent public health hazard exists for persons exposed toambient air at or near Barrie Park. Exposure to the elevated levels of chemicals is not expected to cause adverse health effects.


IDPH recommends that perimeter air monitoring continue until excavation and remediation workat Barrie Park are completed. The monitoring will continue under Illinois EPA oversight. TheIDPH Division of Epidemiologic Studies will re-evaluate the cancer incidence data for the area.


Ken Runkle
Environmental Toxicologist
Illinois Department of Public Health


  1. Green LC. Evaluation of the contribution of residues from a former manufactured gasplant to the quality of air at Barrie Park in Oak Park, Illinois. Cambridge, MA: CambridgeEnvironmental; 1993 Sep.

  2. The RETEC Group, Inc. Work plan for calculating project ambient air quality standardfor benzene. Barrie Park MGP site, Oak Park, Illinois. 2003 Apr 15.

  3. Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. Midterm hiatus plan for the Barrie Park MGP site, Oak Park, Illinois. 2003 Apr.

  4. Illinois Department of Public Health. Incidence of cancer in zip code 60304 of Oak Park (Cook County), Illinois, 1986-1996. Division of Epidemiologic Studies. Springfield:Illinois Department of Public Health; 1999 Apr.

  5. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Health consultation for Barrie Parkformer manufactured gas plant site. Atlanta: US Department of Health and HumanServices; 1999 Sep 3.

  6. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Health consultation for residentialand parkway soil near Barrie Park former manufactured gas plant site. Atlanta: USDepartment of Health and Human Services; 2000 Feb 22.

  7. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Interim guidance for benzene.Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services; 1999 Mar 1.


Table 1.

Air Sampling ResultsBarrie Park, Oak Park, Illinois, August 16, 1993.
Chemical Maximum Level in Barrie Park
(in ppb)
Maximum Level in Barrie Park Neighborhood
(in ppb)
Comparison Value
(in ppb)
Benzene < 1 < 1 10 (ATSDR)
Toluene 4.5 5.2 80 (C-EMEG)
Xylenes 2.0 2.6 100 (C-EMEG)
Ethylbenzene < 1 < 1 1,000 (I-EMEG)
Naphthalene < 1 < 1 2 (C-EMEG)
2-Methylnaphthalene < 1 < 1 NA

ppb - parts per billion
ATSDR - March 1999 interim guidance for benzene
C-EMEG - chronic environmental media evaluation guide
I-EMEG - intermediate environmental media evaluation guide
NA - none available

Table 2.

Chemicals of interest in 2001 to 2003 Perimeter Air Sample Data for Barrie Park, Oak Park, Illinois.
Chemical Maximum Level Detected
(in ppb)
Acute Comparison Values
(in ppb)
Chronic Comparison Values
(in ppb)
Benzene1250 (A-EMEG)10 (ATSDR)
Naphthalene2.8NA2 (C-EMEG)

ppb - parts per billion
A-EMEG - acute environmental media evaluation guide
ATSDR - March 1999 interim guidance for benzene
C-EMEG - chronic environmental media evaluation guide
NA - none available


The Illinois Department of Public Health prepared this Barrie Park health consultation under a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). It is in accordance with approved methodology and procedures existing at the time the health consultation was begun.

W. Allen Robison
Technical Project Officer
Superfund Site Assessment Branch (SAAB)
Division of Health Assessment and Consultation (DAC)

The Division of Health Assessment and Consultation, ATSDR, has reviewed this healthconsultation and concurs with its findings.

Roberta Erlwein
Chief, State Programs Section


Location of Barrie Park


Comparison values (CVs) are the calculated levels of a chemical in air, water, food, or soil thatare unlikely to cause adverse health effects in exposed people. CVs are used as a screening levelduring the public health assessment process. Substances found in amounts greater than their CVsmight be selected for further evaluation in the public health assessment process.

The three types of comparison values are environmental media evaluation guides (EMEGs),reference dose media evaluation guides (RMEGs), and cancer risk evaluation guides (CREGs).These values are used to screen chemicals and identify those that need to be evaluated further.

Environmental media evaluation guides (EMEGs) are derived from minimal risk levels presentedin ATSDR Toxicological Profiles. The guides use standard exposure assumptions for childrenand adults (body weights; ingestion rates for water, soil, and air; and frequency and duration ofexposure). Individual EMEGs do not consider cancer, chemical interactions, or multiple routes ofexposure. They do help to identify specific chemicals needing further evaluation.

Reference dose (RfD) media evaluation guides (RMEGs) are derived from the oral RfDsdeveloped by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Those use standard exposureassumptions for children and adults (body weights; ingestion rates for water, soil, and air; andfrequency/duration of exposure). Like EMEGs, RMEGs do not consider carcinogenic effects,chemical interactions, or multiple exposures.

Cancer risk evaluation guides (CREGs) represent levels of environmental chemicals that maypose a 1x10-6 (one in a million) excess cancer risk. They are derived using cancer slope factorspublished by EPA.

The ATSDR Interim Guidance for benzene is based on 1) the primary end point of interest forbenzene is leukemia; 2) there is a threshold for acute myelocytic leukemia; and 3) these levelsreflect public health prudence. If no maximum values exceed 10 ppb, the exposure is no apparent public health hazard.

Table of Contents The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

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