LUBBOCK, Texas — Several residents from an East Lubbock neighborhood said Thursday and Friday that they’ve been sick for months, but not with COVID. They claimed it’s the pollution coming from a cottonseed oil mill in the area.
A local doctor, who declined to be named, told KLBK News that it’s not uncommon to see cotton allergies in West Texas. Short-term exposure can cause sicknesses that last a few days but chronic exposure, like many of the residents said they are dealing with, can cause more serious problems, including upper respiratory infections, pneumonia and allergies that won’t improve.
“I’ve been living here about 3.5 years now… I have problems every day,” Latasha Willard, who lives near the mill, said. She added that she’s experienced allergy-like symptoms, including sinus congestion, mucus, watery eyes and more. “It’s constant.”
Willard isn’t the only person in her neighborhood dealing with this problem. Several others, including three who declined to be interviewed on-camera, claimed they have experienced illness too.
One man who chose not to be named lives down the street from Willard.
“My doctor told me it looked like a cotton dust allergy. Even Benadryl couldn’t touch it. It felt like I was having a heart attack because I could barely breathe and was having chest pains. I was coughing up that white sputum,” the man told KLBK News on Thursday.
He said his three-year-old son hasn’t fully recovered from pneumonia because the pollutants are still present.
“Got him in to see his doctor, and she said it’s a cotton dust allergy because we showed her the sputum. She checked it [and] it was mostly cotton dust coming up out of his lungs,” he explained.
“Every morning I get up, I have to blow my nose,” Willard said.
The male neighbor said he reached his breaking point when his son got sick.
“I know it’s West Texas [and] it’s a dusty place, but cotton dust shouldn’t be this difficult to live with,” he said. “I hate to see him suffering. I don’t even like letting him play outside unless the wind is blowing from the north.”
Residents said they are hoping for change.
The doctor KLBK News spoke with recommended seeing your health care provider or an allergist to learn ways to minimize exposure and get proper treatment.
If you believe a local establishment is causing health problems in your area, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) here.