Michigan health officials are investigating the prevalence of respiratory conditions among residents who live in close proximity to a paperboard factory in Kalamazoo.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) says epidemiologists are assessing “asthma prevalence and related hospitalizations” among those living around the Graphic Packaging Inc. mill at 1500 N. Pitcher Street, which is located next to the city’s Northside neighborhood, predominately populated by Black residents.

The asthma review is part of a broader toxicological analysis of potential public health impacts from hydrogen sulfide (H2S), an unregulated gas coming from Graphic Packaging wastewater. The review began in December, at the request of the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department.

A November 2020 Rush University Medical Center presentation on air quality and respiratory disease in the 49007 zip code (which includes the Northside, downtown and parts of the Vine and Stuart neighborhoods) as well as overall community concern helped prompt the effort, DHHS said.

The asthma review is “one of the recommended actions identified during development of the health assessment that is being drafted,” said DHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin.

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