Tricia Braid

Oct 16, 2018  |  Today's News |  Ethanol

Ethanol, as a component of gasoline, really does help clear the air, and that is good for human health. 87. 88. 89. 91. Those numbers on the yellow stickers you see on the gas pump indicate the octane level of the fuel, a measure of the fuel’s performance under compression in your engine. But it’s what’s behind those numbers that pose a serious health threat to you and your family. And it’s why ethanol is the “clean air choice” when it comes to better engine performance and improved air quality. IL Corn is working every day to share this knowledge with motorists, policy makers, and regulators. Why choose something that impairs human health when you don’t have to? The answer is clear to us: ethanol.


The petroleum companies who make fuel have used a number of additives to boost the octane levels in gasoline. First, it was lead.  But that was banned from fuel when its horrific health effects were confirmed. Then it was MTBE.  But that was found to pollute groundwater, making it unsafe to drink. So it, too, was banned in the U.S.

Now the companies who make gasoline use chemicals called “aromatics” to increase octane in gasoline, including proven carcinogens and known toxic substances such as benzene, toluene, and xylene. Aromatics can comprise between 20% and 30% of each gallon of gasoline you put in your tank.


In fact, 7 out of the top 10 causes of annual deaths in the United States are related to the health effects of air pollution.  So sitting at a stoplight, stuck in a traffic jam or waiting in line to pick up your kids at school are, in fact, posing significant health risks to you and your family.


Ethanol:  The non-toxic, clean-burning alternative to aromatics

Ethanol is a clean-burning, less toxic way to improve the octane rating of fuel while improving engine performance.  


The increased oxygen in ethanol helps fuel burn more completely, which reduces harmful tailpipe emissions. The more ethanol in gasoline, the lower the levels of these toxic additives in the fuel—and in the exhaust. By choosing higher blends, consumers can help improve air quality simply by making the “clean air choice” at the pump.


Virtually all fuel sold in the U.S. contains 10 percent ethanol.  E15—a 15 percent blend—is becoming widely available and is approved for use in all vehicles model year 2001 or newer. Higher blends such as E30 and E85 can be used in flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on any blend of ethanol and gasoline.  There are millions of flex-fuel vehicles on American highways, so check your owner’s manual to see if you’re driving one.


Over the last 13 years with the American Lung Association, Angela Tin has become determined to make the public aware of the way that switching to biofuels such as ethanol benefits our health but also helps cities comply with federal clean air standards.

“One of the worst things found in gasoline is benzene, a known human carcinogen,” explained Tin, vice president of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association.


“When we breathe it deep into our lungs, it can cause cell mutation and lung cancer. If we can remove the toxic components of gasoline and replace them with ethanol, whether it’s ten percent, fifteen percent, eighty-five percent, the more we can replace gasoline with ethanol, the better it is for our lung health.”


Tin, a passionate advocate for the use of ethanol blended fuels, was aware of the benefits of ethanol when she was working at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “At the IEPA, I was involved in regulatory and compliance programs. The U.S. EPA developed regulations to ‘clean up the new cars’, and they’ve done a great job. Cars today are a lot cleaner than they were before, but there are a lot more cars than there used to be,” Tin said.


“Today, people own more cars, drive extra miles, and keep older cars longer.  So, while pollution from individual new vehicles is decreasing, the number of vehicle miles traveled has gone up, it’s quadrupled.”


“There are federal clean air standards and there are also global warming concerns and while most industries are complying, mobile sources of air pollution have not decreased. These mobile sources are the vehicles we drive,” said Tin. “We as individuals can do something about it if we buy ethanol-blended fuel, instead of just fueling on ordinary gasoline. We can make a clean air choice to reduce the gasoline components put into the air simply by choosing E15 and other higher blends at the pump.”


In other words, the more ethanol in the fuel, the healthier our air becomes for all of us.


You can find higher blends of ethanol in your area by visiting