Cancer-Causing Chemical in the Air at Snow Globe Music Festival

I haven’t been at a music festival in decades, but I still remember seeing the Jefferson Airplane when I was a high school senior. I was completely awed and overjoyed by the sheer power of Grace Slick. What never crossed my mind, I promise you, was what was in the air I was breathing. Now, decades later, I know that maybe that should have been on my mind. Here at the Center for Environmental Health we recently attended the Snow Globe music festival at Lake Tahoe and measured benzene in the air at levels that exceed California’s safety standard. We’re now starting the litigation process under California’s Proposition 65; our goal is to clean up Snow Globe’s air.

We’re concerned about breathing benzene for several reasons. California, the National Toxicology Program and the World Health Organization have all identified benzene as a cancer-causing chemical. Even more concerning for festival-goers, California also identifies benzene as a chemical that causes reproductive harm. According to federal experts, what this means is that babies whose moms were exposed to benzene while pregnant are at risk for a variety of problems. We know that at any big music festival there are many pregnant women, or women who are trying to conceive, and they especially deserve clean air.

I’m sure you’re wondering about the connection between music festivals and benzene. The answer is sure to be complicated, and we don’t have a complete answer yet. But here’s what we do know: Benzene is in the exhaust of gas and diesel engines. It’s not uncommon for festivals to use diesel generators for some or all of their power needs. Sound systems and lighting can all be powered by diesel generators. Also, festivals are magnets for car traffic, and usually use a significant number of cars, trucks and buses to take care of various chores. Solar cells and electric vehicles are sustainable alternatives that don’t pollute the air with benzene. Snow Globe has made a huge commitment to recycling and composting; now let’s add clean air to this list.