Based on community health questionnaire results:

Ohio Citizen Action presses Lucas County Health Department for a study of Sunoco Refinery neighbors health

Questionnaire results chart

September 8, 2004

Dr. David Grossman, Health Commissioner
Toledo-Lucas County Health Department
635 N. Erie Street
Toledo, OH 43624

Dear Dr. Grossman:

Ohio Citizen Action is Ohio's largest environmental organization, with 100,000 dues-paying members. Since 1975, our non-profit and non-partisan group has worked with residents of Ohio to reduce pollution, educate the public about toxic risks and strengthen our right-to-know laws in Ohio and our communities.

Since early 2003, Ohio Citizen Action has been working with neighbors of the Sunoco Oregon Refinery. We have held community public education trainings, talked with neighbors door-by-door about the problems and handed free contact information for residents to call in air and odor complaints to Toledo Environmental Services.

On August 14, 2004, 40 volunteers, including myself, took around a short health questionnaire to area residents. The health questionnaire was not a full health survey, nor do we claim it to be. We simply wanted to compare negative health effects some area neighbors have complained about to the general population living within a couple miles or less of the Sunoco Refinery. There were 339 adult responses and 134 child responses. The total responses was 473.

What we found was astonishing -- which is why I'm writing to you today. We divided up the short check-off list enclosed into "adults" and "children". Sixty percent of the respondents or their children experience headaches, many on a daily basis. Thirty-five percent of the neighbors we talked with, or their children, have itchy, irritated eyes.

Approximately a quarter of respondents or their kids have or experience asthma, shortness of breath, general fatigue, sinus infections and ear infections.

Many neighbors experience combinations of negative health effects. The questionnaire required them to mark any health effects that may apply to them or any other adults living in the household, and to do the same for the children in the house, if any. Here are the top seven negative health effects we found near the plant:

Health effect Adults Children Total Percent of
Headaches 213 70 283 60%
Itchy, irritated eyes 123 45 168 35%
Asthma 77 59 136 29%
Shortness of breath 108 25 133 28%
General fatigue 108 18 126 26%
Sinus infections 66 48 114 24%
Ear infections 58 55 113 24%

The negative health effects among neighbors of the Sunoco Oregon Refinery need more study. We think the Health Department should commission such a study, or make sure it gets done. I urge you to make this a personal priority for the health of the residents of Oregon and East Toledo.


Rachael Belz, Associate Director
Ohio Citizen Action

Thanks to Jane Reilley for compiling and charting the questionnaire results.