Cutting air pollution at the cost of water quality?
SAN FRANCISCO, March 27 -- The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments dramatically increased the use of oxygenates to make cleaner-burning gasoline. The most widely used oxygenate is MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), followed by ethanol. Air pollution from older vehicles has declined, as intended, but MTBE is turning up in drinking and surface water supplies. Recent coverage has cited limited information on MTBE's impact on drinking water. Now, more than 50 research papers on MTBE and related issues will be presented during the 219th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, in San Francisco, Calif., March 26-30. Topics include the extent of MTBE contamination, risks to human health, the government's response, bioremediation and other cleanup methods, and alternatives to MTBE. Selected studies are described below.