If you live near a pulp mill your health may be at risk.  The pulp making process- "digestion", washing, bleaching, recovery and causticizing-involves a complex series of chemical reactions.  These reactions produce a long list of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) potentially injurious to human health.  Because of this hazardous reality, pulp mills in the United States are required to maintain systems of pollution control devices.  Federal and State laws, however, do not require a total elimination of pulp mill HAP emissions.  Furthermore, for various reasons, real-world pollution control systems may not function as well as intended; and actual emissions may exceed legally set limits.

What is the nature of pulp mill HAPs? Hazardous air emissions from kraft pulp mills (the kind of pulp mill on the Samoa Peninsula) are generally classed under the following categories:particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen and sulfur oxides, metals, and reduced sulfur compounds (TRS).  The impact of these various substances on human health is an extremely complex matter, depending in part on amounts emitted, length of exposure, and susceptibility of impacted individuals.  While a mill may release only relatively small amounts of some substances, day in and day out exposure, over long periods of time, such "trace" amounts may have serious consequences.  Other pulp mill HAP releases are measured in tons.  Further complicating this situation is the phenomenon of "chemical mixture"; the fact that specific chemical emissions may combine with elements and compounds in the environment, with often not easily predictable chemical consequences.

What links have been established between the above mentioned HAPs and specific illnesses?  Certain metals and VOCs, some emitted by pulp mills, have been linked to cancer.  Oxides in the air have been linked to birth defects.  Particulates are linked to difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, asthma, chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, nonfatal heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.  Reduced sulfur gases, which account for the typical "foul odors" associated with pulp mills, are neurotoxins.  Exposure at high concentrations can result in immediate death.  Typical lower levels of exposure is linked to a spectrum of symptoms as varied as respiratory tract irritation, eye injury, fatigue, blurred vision, nausea, dizziness, and depression.  Research has shown that long term exposure to low concentrations of reduced sulfur compounds such as hydrogen sulfide can lead to an abnormal growth of brain cells and impaired neurobehavioral functioning.

Living near a pulp mill may be harmful to your health.


United States Environmental Protection Agency. 1993. "Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard Industry Air Emission Standards, Manufacturing Processes at Kraft, Sulfite, Soda and Semi-Chemical Mills. EPA-453 R-93-050a. Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Jeanne Mager Stellman, "Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety" (EOHS): Pulp and Paper Industry, 72-72.17; editors Kay Teschke and Paul Demers, International Labor Organization, 1998, 1253 pp.

World Bank. 1996. "Pollution Prevention and Abatement: Pulp and Paper Mills." Draft Technical Document. Environmental Department, Washington D.C.

Chemical Mixtures

Victor J. Feron, et. al. "International Issues on health effects of exposure to chemical mixtures".  Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 110-Supplement 6- December 2002.


"Exposure to numerous substances designated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known, probable and possible carcinogens may occur in pulp and paper operations." Quoted from: EOHS; Kjell Toren and Kay Teschhe, :"Cancer", p. 72.15

G M Matanoski, et. Al. "Industry-wide study of mortality of pulp and paper mill workers" Am J Ind Med. 1998 Apr, 33 (4):354-65.

Y.M.Coyle, et. al."An ecological study of the association of metal air pollutants with lung cancer incidence in Texas". J Thorac Oncol. 2006;1(7).

R.B. Hayes. "The carcinogenicity of metals in humans". Cancer Causes Control. 1997 May;8(3):371-85.

P.J.Mazzone."Analysis of volatile organic compounds in the exhaled breath for the diagnosis of lung cancer". J Thorac Oncol. 2008; 3(7) 774-780.

Birth Defects/Oxides

S.M. Gilboa, et. al. "Relationship betwwen ambient air quality and selected birth defects, seven county study. Texas, 1997-2000". Am J Epid. 2005; vol. 162, no.3, pp.238-252.

B.Ritz, et.al. "Ambient air pollutin and risk of birth defects in Southern California". Am J. Epid.2002;vol. 155 (Jan.1), 17-25.


C.A. Pope, et. al."Lung cancer, cardiopulmonary mortality, and long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution". JAMA 2002;287:9.

D. Krewski, et. al. "Reanalysis of the Harvard Six Cities Study and the American Cancer Society Study of particulate air pollution and mortality". 2000. Cambridge, MA:Health Effects Institute.

A. Peters, et. al. "Increased particulate air pollution and the triggering of myocardial infarction". Circulation. 2001; 103;2810-2815.

Total Reduced Sulfur (TRS)

Jouni J.K. Jaakkaola, "The South Karalia Air Pollution Study: changes in respiratory health in relation to emission reduction of malodorous sulfur compounds from pulp mills". Archives of Environmental Health; July 1999.

K.H.Kilburn. "Exposure to reduced sulfur gases impairs neurobehavioral function"; Southern Medical Journal; October 1997.

K.H. Kilburn. "Endangered Brains"; Princeton Scientific Publications, Birmingham, Alabama, 2004.

Hannah RS, Roth SH. "Chronic exposure to low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide produces abnormal growth in developing cerebellar Purkinje cells". Neuroscience Letter; 1991 Jan 28;122(2):225-8.

James Collins and David Lewis, "Hydrogen Sulfide: evaluation of current California air quality standards with respect to protection of children". Air Toxicology and Epidemiology Section, California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. September 1, 2000.

9/7/2010 11:11:38 am

Here we go ,,,,,,Starting all over again.
Read something did you ? Think you understand it ?
Wow ,using the big "C" word. Talk about a tactic,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

9/8/2010 12:51:40 am

How long does the appeal take ?

9/8/2010 05:47:25 am

Wow! These so-called 'comments' have nothing to do with the article posted which is about kraft pulp mills and hazardous air emissions. I understand that the list of references is selective and only illustrative, but they are all obviously to the point of the content of the article. Apparently the pulp mill proponents posting on this blog don't even understand its purpose and the concerns behind its creation.

9/8/2010 05:59:36 am

I have deleted the long piece of the Freshwater Tissue website that was placed as a comment by Terry. If anyone wants to see it, they can go to the Freshwater Tissue site under environment.

9/8/2010 06:17:18 am

I'm happy to see the new article. It's a good summary of the relationship between kraft pulp mills and hazardous air pollution in general. These realtionships have been identified, again and again, in regard to pulp mills around the world. I would imagine that everyone of the references cited has a bibliography of supporting studies of its own. With this as a background maybe I can start posting some of the specific data relating to the Samoa mill.

9/8/2010 06:22:37 am

Talk about "cut and paste".

9/8/2010 09:45:14 am

Its not Pete Cadwell or whatever,
I like my Elvis rendition,,,

Like a river flows, surely to the sea.
L.E.A.Pers,so it goes.
The Pulp Mill,, was ment to be,,,,

9/9/2010 12:10:48 am

Convert the pulpwood mill into a hemp mill,which requires little to no toxic chemicals to produce paper.
The same fibers in a pot smokers plant can be used to produce paper and it is a throw away item to smokers.
Farmers can plant any high thc cannabis
strain and sell the foliage and flowers to the potheads,the seeds to foodstuff and oil producers and the stalks to the paper mill. It is one of those plants that can be fully utilized with little waste.

9/9/2010 12:27:04 am

The mill requires 125 truck loads of wood chips a day. Where are you gonna grow 250,000 tons of hemp for annual use in the mill. Clear cut the woods ?Also dont kid youselfs.Hemp paper will still require most of the same process.

9/9/2010 12:30:32 am

People for the mill,,
It seems by us trying to help these people understand the mill better. We just lend more information for them to twist around as if they understand it better than "us". Bob is right this blog is reaching a point of not being worth the time to respond to any longer.

9/9/2010 01:58:00 am

Anybody Bother to notice,
Westend Eureka ,is "zoned an Idustrial corridor",You people chose where to live . With an exsisting mill in place.

9/9/2010 02:07:20 am

We are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless *distinguishable*, pulp mill environments: one where you got twenty million people killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.

9/9/2010 05:56:42 am

It's an 'industrial corridor' full of old Victorians and Craftsmans. I believe it's zoned mixed use. Maybe in the 'old days' working class people living in West Eureka didn't have the time or resources to fight for the clean air they and their children deserved. Today, things are different.

9/9/2010 12:49:43 pm

Hi Cricket;
You people chose where to live . With an exsisting mill in place.

9/9/2010 12:58:38 pm

I've had some, perhaps, deserved criticism on this blog for posting lists of pulp mill air toxics without citing associated amounts. To be truthful, I've held back because talking about amounts accurately is such a complicated and difficult matter. When Evergreen started operations early in 2005 I started researching this, and continued for 3 years until the mill closed. Here's some of what I learned concerning the Samoa Mill. Almost all published amounts are based on estimations; real testing is done only on a couple or so emission points for only three or so pollutants. These educated guesses generally fail to take into account such real-life emission events as breakdown emissions, spills, and unauthorised emissions (such as an opened window). Published amounts are shaped by specific regulatory reporting purposes and may vary for this reason. Some reports give annual emission amounts (in tons or pounds, some are units per pounds of pulp--or per units of black liquor solids (BLS). Some reports are so technical as to be next to impossible for anyone but a specialist to read correctly. Some local mill HAPs are emitted in tons per year, some in thousands of pounds per year--or hundreds, or fractions of a pound. Trying to sort all this out is not easy. At least 4 of the mill's HAPs are reported in tons: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter. Even here, however, it is hard to get firm data because estimations vary pretty markedly. Take particulate matter for an example. These are classified as PM (particulates in general) or PM10 (particulates smaller than 10 microns). One report for the Samoa Mill's 2003 particulate emissions, issued by the local Air Quality Managment office gave a figure of 109 tons (whether PM or PM10 not indicated). At a January 2006 public meeting, the local Air Pollution Control Officer testified that the mill's annual emission of particulate matter was 230 tons. Finally, in a document dated 8/21/06 submitted by Evergreen to the Air Quality Office estimates were given for PM emissions as 284 tons per year and for PM10 as 269 tons. I could show this kind of variation for almost every HAP from the Samoa Mill. It is frustrating when you know you and your family are being exposed to this stuff. Never the less, as difficult as it is to get precise information on this, those of us living near the Mill have our lived experience and our memories of it. I have something like four journal notebooks recording my day-to-day observations of mill plumes, odors, and my personal physical reasctions. I and other West Eureka residents learned alot during the Evergreen episode. If the old dragon ever does start to puff again, we won't be starting from scratch.

2/12/2012 11:08:06 pm

I wish I would have read more about this before we moved. We moved here to the U.P. about a month ago.... I have not been healthy ever since the move, and neither has my 10 month old nor my husband. My other two sons are doing okay, but every couple of days or so, we break out in coughs, fever, etc.. I just don't understand. Then, I read about the paper mill. I have no doubt that along with the added stress of moving, the environmental hazard doesn't help. I love my house, the views, but there is definitely a "dragon" in the background. At least in a metropolis (where we came from) they are constantly under the gun to improve on emissions, pollutants & clean ups. In the more rural areas, especially where the economy is dependent on its mills and environmental industry, these kinds of things go almost unreported, or if they are reported, no action plan ever emerges.

Marie Perkovich
5/15/2012 03:37:55 am

If you are about to retire, never ever buy a 'cheap' house in a pulp mill city. Not worth it. We found the ever present pee-sulphur smell irritated our eyes and lungs. The winds didn't clear the valley of the smell either. Our only solution: move away to cleaner air. In BC this means avoid: Chemainus, Kamloops,Prince George, Squamish, etc. The PR for these places never mentions the compromised day to day life because of the presence of a pulp mill.

6/6/2013 09:33:21 am

How close is too close to live near a paper mill

Mentally Impaired
3/3/2017 06:37:15 pm


I am nearly "retired". I talked my wife into buying a "house we could afford". That wound up meaning a small town in Washington state.

Ooops! It has MULTIPLE paper mills.

Oooops! I am losing my once nearly perfect memory, and after only 7 months of living here. My wife can't drive for shit, because she simply CANNOT seem to remember to turn on her turn signals. Which has been a growing source of friction between us.

I once attempted to live in Eureka, so I got to shop at the local stores. I know the scene.

When I got to the town where we bought our "cheap" house, it was clear that there were alarming parallels, including widespread drug use, crime, and people barely making it. Not to mention, a huge inventory of houses for "cheap", because nobody could maintain them properly.

I had thought that it was due to the economy being in the toilet. I was foolish. Nothing is ever so simple.

Tonight, I had a wake up call. I had yet another incident while shopping at Winco, which is my all time favorite store to buy groceries from. I have almost totally positive things to say about the chain, other than their produce section.

I had a checker get "fed up" with my attitude in the line tonight, which is why I generally use the self-checkout. Nobody to irritate. So, she decided to "go find another checker" to wait on us, hopeless during the rush hour. I watched the line get longer and longer in back of us. So, I walked out as well. Why make matters worse for everybody, right?

As my wife drove us home, (and failed to use her turn signals at least 3 more times), I mused about what it was that was that looked like a pattern. Halfway home, I had figured it out. It was my "Eureka" moment!

That is, the ONLY other Winco, where I get TERRIBLE service, and rotten attitude on the part of the employees, (and I have shopped at dozens of Winco Foods stores now), is in Eureka. "What is something that both our Winco store and Eureka's Winco store have in common?", I asked myself.

Then, it hit me. They both (had) an active pulp mill! Drat!

I killed us, with my terminal cheapness! So, tomorrow, we leave. The next day, we figure out how to minimize our losses, but thank you for your efforts to understand why your life isn't working. We wanted to figure out the same thing, and that is how Google got us here.

Hope this helps in some small way.
Normally a brainiac...

2/22/2018 11:38:18 pm

I really like your writing style, great information, thankyou for posting.

7/21/2018 11:25:32 am

I work all over canada. Prince george bc has a pulp
Mill, everytime i come here i get my period early.
Apparently im not the only one. My contracts in this city on last a week thank god but still the emissions must be some sort of estrogen

12/6/2018 09:06:27 am

I moved to a gulf Island and bought a sweet house.....I am exposed to Texada Island sludge on the so called roads. A mining tailing! Also the daily wafting of the paper and pulp mill. I was told by neither the real estate office or the seller. I lost 22 lbs. in two months, wheezing, and my MS flared. I was told BUYER BEWARE? The community deliberately remains ignorant and I am not popular as I tried to find out why I was getting ill.


Leave a Reply.