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Question
Posted by: Peas | 2011/04/14

Pollution

Hi Olivia,

We live near a paper manufacturing plant and suffer greatly every winter. I think the winds change in winter and brings with it a putrid smell in the egg. It smells of rotten egg. I think it may be sulphur.

My family are all suffering from different allergies and I suspect it may be from the pollution as it only occurs in winter.

What can I, as the woman on the street, do to try to find out if it is indeed this paper plant''s emissions that are giving us allergies?

Thank you for your time.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageEnviroHealth expert

Yes, that is almost definitely a sulphur compound you're smelling, and these pollutants have been linked to symptoms such as respiratory tract irritation and headaches in communities (especially kids) living nearby paper plants. Whether it is a direct cause of allergies is harder to prove, but this kind of air pollution is very likely to worsen any kind of respiratory problem. There are other pollutants involved in addition to sulphur compounds - the exact nature of these depends on the specific plant and processes being carried out there. It may indeed be worse in winter because of climatic conditions – in some areas colder air layers trap the air pollution near the surface.

Unfortunately this is going to be a very difficult problem to solve, short of moving elsewhere. Staying indoors when the pollution is particularly bad is helpful, but of course no solution. You could ask your local health department/dept of labour to send you documentation that the paper plant is adhering to pollution mitigation requirements – but there would still be air pollution if they were. Other avenues to try are getting some more names and support from other community members affected, and contacting the owners of the plant with your complaints, and, if you have people involved, possibly hiring an environmental lawyer. Also contact the media and see if there is interest in running a story on the problem – you are most welcome to email me in that regard with further details too.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: EnviroHealth Expert | 2011/04/19

Yes, that is almost definitely a sulphur compound you're smelling, and these pollutants have been linked to symptoms such as respiratory tract irritation and headaches in communities (especially kids) living nearby paper plants. Whether it is a direct cause of allergies is harder to prove, but this kind of air pollution is very likely to worsen any kind of respiratory problem. There are other pollutants involved in addition to sulphur compounds - the exact nature of these depends on the specific plant and processes being carried out there. It may indeed be worse in winter because of climatic conditions – in some areas colder air layers trap the air pollution near the surface.

Unfortunately this is going to be a very difficult problem to solve, short of moving elsewhere. Staying indoors when the pollution is particularly bad is helpful, but of course no solution. You could ask your local health department/dept of labour to send you documentation that the paper plant is adhering to pollution mitigation requirements – but there would still be air pollution if they were. Other avenues to try are getting some more names and support from other community members affected, and contacting the owners of the plant with your complaints, and, if you have people involved, possibly hiring an environmental lawyer. Also contact the media and see if there is interest in running a story on the problem – you are most welcome to email me in that regard with further details too.

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