A mysterious odor near S. 9th St. and W. National Ave in Milwaukee has caused some residents to vacate their homes. The smell, which residents describe as similar to gasoline, paint thinner, and furniture stripper, comes and goes in all weather without any notable pattern.
As a result of the complaints of concerned residents, the Milwaukee Health Department conducted air monitoring in the area and discovered "gasoline or diesel related compounds" were present.
Among the compounds was benzene, a known human carcinogen commonly used in the petrochemical industry. Short term exposure to the organic solvent can cause nausia, diziness, and disorientation. Long term exposure to benzene has been linked to blood disorders and cancers, specificly, aplastic anemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The source of the pollution continues to evade officals.
"We’re trying to understand the pathways of how vapors make it to the homes, and we’re still at the very early phases, but we are detecting it [petrochemicals including benzene] consistently in these properties when we do monitoring with a dosimeter."
"What makes this more difficult may be that it’s old contamination that settled in old utility vault where utility pipe and conduit used to be. There could be empty pockets underground that collect vapors that make their way to homes through old sewer lines or cracks in the foundations. There’s a million ways it can get into homes, especially in old areas like S. 9th and National," -Paul A. Biedrzycki, Milwaukee Health Department