KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The results of a state study to determine if long-term exposure to the foul smell that fills the air in a Kalamazoo neighborhood impacts people's health has been delayed.
Short-term exposure to the odor near Graphic Packing International and the Kalamazoo Water Reclamation Plant is not considered harmful, according to a study released by the Environmental Protection Agency in October 2021.
Residents who live near the paper mill and the city's wastewater treatment plan on Kalamazoo's north side have complained about the foul smells for over a decade.
The EPA and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services launched an investigation into the air quality in 2020.
The state was charged with assessing if there are any health impacts from long-term exposure to the smell.
State officials told News Channel 3 the health department expected to release the results study into the long-term impacts in January.
The anticipated release was then delayed until late March and now another delay.
"This process takes time, and it is important that our health consultations are accurate," said Chelsea Wuth, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The first phase of the state's health consultation has not identified any immediate public health risks based on available data for the community near Graphic Packaging, International and the Kalamazoo Water Reclamation Plant, Wuth said.
The state health department is still monitoring and sampling data collected near Graphic Packaging and the Kalamazoo Water Reclamation Plant, Wuth said in an email to News Channel 3.
The department is also looking at the state's review of asthma prevalence and hospitalization rates in Kalamazoo as part of the study on the effects of long-term exposure.
A group of residents who live near the Graphic Packaging facility in Kalamazoo filed a class-action lawsuit against the Graphic Packaging in September of 2020.
The rotten smell in the air is hydrogen sulfide, a chemical produced from natural sources, according to state toxicologists.
Hydrogen sulfide exposure can harm a person’s nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, depending on dosage levels. Lower exposure is less severe, according to the federal agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
State toxicologists said concentrations of the gas detected in the Kalamazoo's Northside neighborhood showed no immediate short-term impact, but experts said it merited further investigation.
Once the health consultation is finalized, the final document will be available to the public, Wuth said.
An expected completion date for the study was not provided.
The process will take time as other health risks will have to be considered and evaluated such as the effects of long-term exposure, according to Wuth.