LUBBOCK, Texas — Several residents of an East Lubbock neighborhood said Thursday and Friday that they had been sick for months, but not with COVID. They claimed it was pollution 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 illnesses that last a few days, but chronic exposure, as many residents have said, can cause more serious problems, including upper respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, and allergies that don’t are not improving.
“I’ve been living here for about 3 and a half years…I have problems every day,” said Latasha Willard, who lives near the factory. She added that she had allergy-like symptoms including sinus congestion, mucus, watery eyes and more. “It’s consistent.”
Willard isn’t the only person in his neighborhood dealing with this issue. Several others, including three who declined to be interviewed on camera, said they had also been ill.
A man who chose not to be named lives on rue de Willard.
“My doctor told me it looked like a cotton dust allergy. Even Benadryl couldn’t touch it. I felt like I was having a heart attack because I could barely breathe and I was I had chest pains. I was coughing up this white sputum,” the man told KLBK News on Thursday.
He said his three-year-old son had not fully recovered from pneumonia because the pollutants were still present.
“I took her to see her doctor, and she said it was a cotton dust allergy because we showed her the sputum. She checked it [and] it was mostly cotton dust coming out of his lungs,” he explained.
“Every morning I wake up, I have to blow my nose,” Willard said.
The male neighbor said he reached his breaking point when his son fell ill.
“I know it’s West Texas [and] it’s a dusty place, but cotton dust shouldn’t be that hard to live with,” he said. “I hate to see him suffer. I don’t even like to let him play outside unless the wind is blowing from the north.
Residents said they hoped for a change.
The doctor KLBK News spoke to recommended seeing your healthcare provider or an allergist to learn how to minimize exposure and get proper treatment.
If you believe a local facility is causing health problems in your area, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) here.