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What air pollution from things like fires can do to your health

McKelvey Engineering's Jay Turner spoke to KSDK about the effects of air pollution on individuals with certain health conditions

Brent Solomon, KSDK 
Jay Turner

MADISON COUNTY, Ill. — Massive fires, like the one at a Madison recycling plant Wednesday, can have an impact on your health. 5 On Your Side found several people with health conditions who live within feet of the fire at the Interco Recycling Center. 

Any fire can be cause for concern, but this one had significant risks due to the fact metal was burning all day long. Then there are questions over whether chemicals were used to fight the fire.

"The rooftop was burning, then I started smelling the air,” said neighbor Robert Tate.

"It was bad…It was boom, boom, boom, boom,” Donna Frazier added.

She and many of her neighbors battle health challenges. 

"I have asthma. I have bronchitis. I have COPD," she said.

Why is that a concern?

"That's exactly what comes to mind, what are the health effects of this event?" asked Jay Turner, a professor and researcher at Washington University.

He said there are concerns when it comes to metals in air pollution.

"They get into your lungs. It can move into other parts of your body through the bloodstream and cause inflammation. How your body responds to that inflammation is what's important and it could lead to respiratory problems or heart problems,” Turner said.

Frazier is also concerned about the potential of chemicals being in the air.

"Are you fighting it strictly with water now?” 5 On Your Side asked firefighter Lt. Matt Coppin, whose organization provided mutual aid to Madison County first responders.

“I'm not sure. Sometimes foam is used as well. From what I've heard, it's just water at this point,” Coppin responded Wednesday afternoon.

Later Wednesday night, officials with Madison County Emergency Management confirmed no foam was used to fight the fire.

"I can still smell the smoke. It's in our house too,” Frazier said.

Those who live within a mile of the fire were told to shelter in place, close their windows and turn off their air conditioning. That was an effort by first responders to keep neighbors safe.

Read the full story here.

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