BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia residents received answers on what’s in the air they’re breathing near the Bristol, Virginia landfill.

The City of Bristol, Tennessee released a public health assessment last month, and residents heard from the toxicologist who wrote it.

One chemical brought up in that report included benzene.

The Environmental Protection Agency says benzene exposure can irritate the skin, eyes and upper respiratory tract. In serious cases, it can also cause cancer.

Despite severe concerns from residents, toxicologist Dr. Laura Green reiterated that the landfill odor is not causing long term health effects.

Benzene was detected at high levels in the air, but it is not the cause of the short-term health effects.

“Those kind of short-term effects I feel are mostly caused by the other compounds — the biodegradation products of the garbage,” said Green.

Bristol residents suffering from headaches and nausea for months learned it is likely being caused by malodorous gases from decomposing trash.

Residents say there’s still more work to be done to understand the odor’s impact.

“This might a good baseline, but I think there was a lot that may not have been looked at enough and there’s probably more testing that’s needed,” said Bristol, Tennessee resident Mike Givney.

Givney and his wife evacuated their home and live in a camper outside of town. They say the smell was causing significant problems.

“We can’t spend more than 40 minutes in our house without splitting headaches, nosebleeds and nausea,” said Givney.

Green says the compounds causing the short-term effects are not at toxic levels, but they can cause problems for pets.

“I can imagine a situation in which some non-human mammals will be very bothered by this — stop eating, stop drinking and they pass away because of it,” said Green.

As for the benzene, Green says it is not coming from trash, but she suspects a leaking gasoline storage tank is contaminating the wastewater and says it may not even be located at the landfill.

Greene said that is likely due to a subsurface reaction deep below some of the gas wells that is generating intense heat.

Green says the air quality issues are largely solved, but engineering a fix to the smell is much more difficult. She says the problems at the landfill are fixable if the federal government and state of Virginia provide the funding and assistance to get it done, but that could take a long time.