Valley Man Concerned Cotton Gin May Impact Family’s Health

4 years 7 months 3 weeks ago Thursday, September 21 2017 Sep 21, 2017 September 21, 2017 9:14 PM September 21, 2017 in News

LA VILLA – Martin Loredo spends much of his time indoors. He tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS he doesn't have much of a choice during cotton season.

"They work 24 hours a day, so when they work all that dust flies my way. All the dirt, cotton fibers," said Loredo. "We can't sit outside because we breathe all that dust and dirt."

Loredo keeps his car under a shed behind his home. He said nothing is safe from the dust coming from the gin.

"I washed my car two days ago and it's already covered with dirt," said Loredo. "The outdoor unit of my air conditioner also is covered with dirt. I have to keep dousing it with water to flush the dirt out. I just had it fixed. The gin shouldn't be there."

Loredo's biggest concern is the health and well-being of his family. He no longer allows his grandchildren to spend time outdoors in the evening.

"My granddaughters have allergies, so they can't sit out here because the breathe all of that stuff and that is harmful for them," said Loredo.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to a Rio Grande Valley doctor who echoed Loredo's concerns.

Pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Roberto Ayers told us living near a cotton gin could lead to the development of asthma-like symptoms.

"Asthma meaning, your bronchi, your airways that bring air to your lungs can get narrowed, you can't breathe," said Ayers. "People know what asthma is, wheezing, shortness of breath and it responds to medication."

We reached out to the owner of the cotton gin for comment. While he declined an on-camera interview, he said his business takes significant measures to reduce particulate matter pollution in accordance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards.

La Villa city manager Arnie Amaro wants citizens to be aware cotton gins statewide must meet TCEQ certifications.

"They should be aware that, you know, the cotton gin, just like any other facility, is monitored and governed by the state of Texas," said Amaro.

TCEQ provides air quality permits to cotton gins across the state. Brian McGovern, TCEQ media specialist, tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS in a statement, cotton gins must be equipped with certain technology to gain compliance.

"These controls are typically small-mesh screens on all condenser exhausts and properly-sized, high-efficiency cyclones on all other fan exhausts."

TCEQ renewed this cotton gin's permit in 2015. Compliance records from 2011 to 2016 show no instances of "chronic excessive emission events."

McGovern said gins that meet technology standards should not have a negative impact on the health of local residents.

"Cotton gins, which operate with emission controls and use best management practices in accordance with the air permit authorization, should not cause adverse health impacts."

Loredo will continue to look for ways to enjoy the outdoors.

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