I pulled my head back inside the door with the prompt decision to delay garden duties. Still I was concerned about leaving my animals outside breathing this odoriferous soup. Since the few breaths I took left a chemical taste in my mouth, I knew that the air was densely polluted with minute particulate matter.
It wasn’t the first time I noticed the poor air quality in our community. My friends and relatives have told me stories about it. A relative mentioned that she left her bedroom window open one balmy night. When she awakened, the taste in her mouth was terrible and the air flowing in through the window stank of chemicals. Another friend states that each time he enters Mt. Vernon he wonders if his car is malfunctioning due to the smell.
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Particulate matter (PM), 10 micrometers or less, can reach deep into your lungs and, consequently, into your blood stream. Inhaling PM can cause a multitude of serious health problems. Asthma, irregular heart beat, heart attacks, cancer, pre-mature deaths and other ailments are a result of breathing PM.
I do not know from whence cometh the stench. There are five large industries in our community and another being built soon. It is a wonder that industries do not understand that keeping the air clean supports their employees, helping to keep health insurance costs down. Many employers pay for health insurance. Perhaps installing filters to capture this chemical stew is not done due to financial costs. But it is corporate malfeasance. The EPA, in the Clean Air Act, requires “the maximum degree of reduction in emissions of hazardous air pollutants.”
It is not only Mt. Vernon but other communities as well. Indiana is the sixth leading air polluter in the United States. In a USA Today article, Sept. 26, 2016, Evansville was called a Super Polluter due to the proximity of four coal-fired power plants. All towns within 30 miles of these power plants were listed as air quality endangered. However, most of the time the wind blows from the west and south keeping Mt. Vernon free from unneeded additional amounts of sulfur and nitrogen dioxides which is also emitted by vehicles.
I have noticed that the industrial chemicals locally are often released at night or early morning. If you enjoy viewing the major constellations which one can see even with all the street and outdoor residential lights, breathing PM dampens your love of star gazing; as well as dampening your desire to ride a bike in the early dawn when traffic is not heavy and carbon dioxide is light. The hazardous polluted industrial atmosphere is just waiting for that deep breathing you do when exercising, instead!
It has been many years since EPA has monitored the quality of Mt. Vernon’s air. To notify them of any concerns you have, send a comment via: www.epa.gov.tips.
Also, Indiana Department of Environmental Management does not even list Mt. Vernon on their charts. You can send a comment about our air quality via email to: JPARKS@idem.in.gov Some of you have stories to tell about the health of your child or another family member. Please tell them.
I believe it is a human right to have clean air to breathe. An endangered atmosphere will remain and become worse as long as there is placid indifference. Sending a note of concern or telling your story to IDEM and EPA is a beginning. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” If we do not support the arc, how will it bend towards justice in our own time?
© Ann Rains, March 2018