Friday, September 4, 2009

Toxic fumes, anyone?

Quick, what's the most nauseating, headache-inducing smell you can think of? Road-killed skunk? A liquid propane leak? Cigarette smoke? The container of leftovers that was lost in the back of the fridge? A stroll past the eau d'parfum counter at a department store? All of these will make me hold my nose, but nothing will make me more ill (and more crabby) than the smell of burning garbage.

Somebody in our neighborhood decided to barbecue their trash last night. This was no pile of baler twine and feed sacks, either – this was the whole can of household refuse. I can tell the difference. My family burned garbage when I was growing up. To keep the smoke from drifting toward the house, the fire was started when there was an east wind, which meant the toxic fumes blew toward the barn instead. I swear that burning barrel was only lit on the nights when it was my turn to milk. I know exactly what burning plastic smells like: awful.

Last night was no different. The prevailing winds carried the stench right into our yard. Our new barn fans pulled the reeking air right into the barn and milk house. I gagged through the last half of chores and finished with a splitting headache. You know the old commercial where the lady says, "I have a headache this big," and holds her hands out? That was me last night.

Maybe my olfactory system is overly sensitive, but I'm pretty sure there's a good reason why burning garbage was banned: the fumes released from incinerating household trash truly are toxic. Thanks, neighbors, for polluting the air my children and I breathe and making my bad night even worse.

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