Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stinky Air

Woke up today with a completely clogged left ear—not an unusual occurrence, unfortunately. As I got up and went about my day, the congestion got worse until my head felt like it would explode and my eyes were behaving strangely. This appears to be the result of the pollution in the air. I began experiencing symptoms like this in earnest when we moved to Klamath Falls. Bill would cut the grass and my throat would burn and my eyes would water. In winter, I would usually feel better, so I assumed it was plant life—we didn't live near grass in Alaska. The second summer we were there, things got worse, as they did every year we were there, until I would go through the entire summer feeling congested to varying degrees and often—on days that were sunny, still, and warm, which was most every day—I would have trouble taking deep breaths. Then last winter, we had weeks of air stagnation and inversions, which trapped the pollutants in the basin. And I had the worst symptoms yet. The congestion and difficulty breathing morphed into coughing that kept me awake for nights in a row—and since we lived in an 800 square-foot house, Bill was up, too. When the constant coughing subsided, I would still have sudden attacks that sounded quite awful, even to me. Bill did some checking and discovered that we actually were in a very polluted area. So I began joking (or maybe not quite joking) that Klamath Falls really was a toxic town and that I was allergic to it. While we were traveling across the country this summer, I had some weeks of relief when we were in the middle of the country. Then we got here.
You really would think that Niagara Falls would be completely focused on tourism. Not so. It is basically a crumbling town that is feeling the pain of losing a good many of the chemical plants that used to make up the industrial base of the city. There are still a few of these left and when you drive by them, the air smells noticeably different. Not to say that it smells great the rest of the time. Most days we are greeted by the smell of rotten eggs when we head outside. On a few days this has been absent. Coincidentally or not, these are also the days when I am the least congested and when the wind is blowing. Warm, sunny, still days here are worse than Klamath Falls for me. The air stinks, my head gets very clogged, like today, my throat sometimes burns, and my eyes might burn and water as well, if it is really bad. I understand that Niagara University has brought in some expert to help the community find ways to shift from an industrial base to tourism as a focus. The city itself seems to be trying to clean things up on the ground by tearing down some of the many abandoned and condemned buildings and fixing the pothole-filled streets. On one street, the pavement is so worn away that you can see the brick street that underlies the pavement! In any case, it seems that people recognize the problem and are trying to fix it. But having stinky air isn't going to help things along and I am sure there are plenty more people like me who find breathing in the toxins to be a physically difficult task. I am not sure what they plan to do about those things, but I would think they will have to try to do something. When people drive from the strip of motels and stores that are located in an area a few miles away from the Falls themselves, they drive right by a chemical plant that is always spewing some kind of smoke. The smell is very noticeable. It is not what people come here to see. Potholes are relatively easy to fix. Abandoned buildings can be torn down. Fixing the air itself will be a far more daunting challenge.

No comments: