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Public Comment Release



Austral Insulated Products (Austral) is a light industrial manufacturer of wire coatings located in Douglasville, Georgia. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was petitioned in 1994 by a resident of Douglasville requesting information on four specific chemicals listed as air emissions from Austral (Letter dated January 15, 1994). The petitioner provided a list of various health conditions of local residents and expressed concern that the conditions may have been caused by air emissions from Austral. The list of health concerns included headaches, skin problems, stomach problems, respiratory problems (including asthma and emphysema), endometriosis, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, stroke, and a heart attack.


The purpose of this document is to evaluate the petitioner's concerns and the information available to ATSDR regarding air emissions from Austral, the air emissions' effect on public health for those living near the Austral Products facility, and to make appropriate public health recommendations based on the available data.

Summary of Findings

ATSDR found that the chemical names provided were apparently industrial trade names for mixtures of various chemical compounds. Insufficient data were available to ATSDR to evaluate the potential emissions from these mixtures or offsite air emissions from the facility. Due to the insufficient data, ATSDR was unable to fully evaluate whether the site poses a hazard to public health. Within ATSDR's conclusion categories, this site is considered an "Indeterminate Public Health Hazard" pending the availability of sufficient data to evaluate potential air emissions from the facility.


Austral Insulated Products (Austral) is a light industrial facility which makes specialty coatings for wire products (such as electrical or telephone cable, etc). The facility is located at 1055 Shadix Industrial Boulevard in Douglasville, Georgia. Austral was the first occupant of the building, when it was built in 1989. In 1991, Austral signed a consent order with the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA-EPD). The consent order was based upon a notice of violation for operating machinery at the facility without the necessary air emissions permits. The consent order specifically identifies "fabric insulating machines...installed in June 1989" and "enamel wire coating machines...installed in September 1990." The consent order made provisions for Austral to obtain a permit for emissions of volatile organic chemicals (VOC's) and to continue operations under the permit conditions.


ATSDR's general approach to evaluating a site is to evaluate environmental data concerning release of chemicals into the environment and to evaluate the pathways by which the public might be exposed to the release of the chemicals. ATSDR typically looks for five elements of a completed or potentially completed exposure pathway. These elements are: 1) a release of a chemical, 2) the media and mechanisms of transport ( i.e., how the chemical moves and whether it moves through air, soil, or water), 3) the point of exposure (where actual or potential human contact with the chemical may occur), 4) the route of exposure (such as eating, drinking, inhaling, etc.), and 5) the receptor population (details about the people who may be exposed). If these elements are not present (or it is not reasonably possible for all of the pathway elements to be complete), then ATSDR notes that the pathway is not completed. If a completed, or potentially completed pathway exists, then ATSDR evaluates the amount of chemical to which the public is likely to be exposed by comparing the exposure amount with ATSDR's comparison values, when available. Comparison values are screening tools used to evaluate environmental data relevant to exposure pathways. Comparison values are concentrations of contaminants which are considered to be safe levels of exposure.


In evaluating the Austral Products facility, ATSDR checked the files of the GA-EPD and contacted Austral Products environmental personnel. ATSDR did not locate any available environmental sampling data pertinent to concerns about air emissions from the facility. ATSDR was able to locate the facility's air discharge permit and review the emissions limits of the permit. Unfortunately, emissions limits are typically permitted in total pounds per hour from a stack compliance point, but it is not possible to directly convert this amount to an ambient offsite air concentration without either additional sampling data or without making a large number of assumptions in a modeling effort. In addition, Austral is permitted to emit limited amounts (3 pounds per hour or 15 pounds per day maximum) of total volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the air without specific limits on the specific individual compounds. Therefore, ATSDR is not able to apply comparison values to fully evaluate the air emissions from the facility. Although ATSDR does not have enough environmental data to evaluate the air emissions, there are some insights that can be obtained from the available data.

First, ATSDR researched the four chemicals listed as concerns of the petitioner. These four chemicals were listed in GA-EPD file documents and are actually trade names and abbreviations of trade chemicals. The four items listed by the petitioner are:

    "516-30 Isonel,"
    "1760A Formvar," and,
    "5069 ML"

ATSDR staff were able to locate current trade chemicals with similar names, although we were not able to specifically identify any of the four chemicals listed by the petitioner with any degree of certainty. For example, ATSDR located a trade chemical named "19220 Formvar" which is actually a blend of vinyl alcohol, vinyl acetate, and less than 1% formaldehyde. This is probably similar to "1760A Formvar," but there may be slight variations in both the percentages and some components of the chemical mixture. It appears that the other compounds listed are trade names and abbreviations for similar mixtures of various chemical components. Therefore, ATSDR is not able to specifically evaluate any of the four compounds used in the facility's processes. ATSDR notes that the important public health issue is not what compounds are used within the facility, but rather, what chemicals are emitted from the facility to which people offsite may be exposed (via completed pathways). However, ATSDR is not able to fully evaluate emissions from Austral without greater definition of the specific VOC compounds emitted from Austral's air system outlet. This lack of specific information is a data gap. When data gaps are identified, ATSDR makes recommendations to acquire data that would allow more complete public health evaluation of an issue.

Site Visit

In addition to reviewing available file information related to the site, ATSDR staff performed a site visit on March 18, 1998. ATSDR staff viewed the facility and evaluated the surrounding community for potential areas where exposure may be occurring. ATSDR staff noted the presence of a "band-aid like" odor (a "band-aid like odor" was stated in the petition letter) on streets adjacent to and behind the facility. ATSDR staff also located and observed the primary air discharge for the facility, and noted that several vent-covered exhaust fans appeared to be operating across the back wall of the facility, venting what appeared to be fugitive emissions from the Austral facility directly to the atmosphere without the emissions going through the primary air discharge unit. ATSDR notes that such fugitive emission sources may also be a data gap in knowledge of facility emissions.

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