Magazine article Insight on the News

Gas Is Greener, but Smog Safer; Americans Are Complaining about Reformulated Gasoline, Claiming the Cleaner-Burning Fuel Makes Them Ill, Costs More and Reduces Engine Performance

Magazine article Insight on the News

Gas Is Greener, but Smog Safer; Americans Are Complaining about Reformulated Gasoline, Claiming the Cleaner-Burning Fuel Makes Them Ill, Costs More and Reduces Engine Performance

Article excerpt

Americans are complaining about reformulated gasoline, claiming the cleaner-burning fuel makes them ill, costs more and reduces engine performance.

Thousands of Americans are complaining about new reformulated gasoline, or RFG, an oxygen-rich automotive fuel that reduces carbonmonoxide emissions. Most of the complaints are coming from residents of two of the nine smoggiest metropolitan areas, which are under a federal mandate to use RFG to cut ozone pollution and airborne toxins. Since the mandate took effect Jan. 1, more than 5,000 residents of the Milwaukee area have called a toll-free hot line with complaints about the new gasoline. A similar situation exists in New Jersey, where there is an organized grassroots effort to ban the gas.

"People are complaining of headaches and nausea, and there seems to be a smaller segment of the population that has some respiratory problems" says Henry Anderson, chief medical officer for environmental and occupational health for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services. "This is a large-enough program in terms of sales and impact on the community that I think we need a national strategy to investigate health issues'"

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Republican from Wisconsin, notes that in addition to health concerns, "people have complained their gas mileage has gone down between 10 and 20 percent with reformulated gas." Sensenbrenner has introduced an amendment to the Clean Air Act to repeal the legislation on which the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, based its mandate.

In New Jersey, where six counties are required to use RFG and three others have volunteered to do so, a group called Oxy Busters says it has documented as many as 800 cases of people who sly they became ill from the new gas. The group also says it has collected signatures from more than 14,000 residents seeking a ban on its sale. The petition will be presented to Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, according to Barry Grossman, founder of Oxy Busters.

"I get calls from senior citizens who are afraid to leave their homes because they can't breathe when they get into their cars," says Grossman, "and I get calls from parents of 5- and 6-year-old children with headaches that won't go away." He says he has experienced headaches since he started filling his car with RFG. Dizziness and rashes are other common symptoms experienced by people who have been forced to switch to the fuel, says Grossman. "People are angry when they realize their own government is poisoning them. …

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