Our expert says:
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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