Monday, April 5, 2010

My Neighbors Make Me Sick and Whatever Happened to The Golden Rule

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My neighbors are making me sick, and not in the sense that you are probably thinking right now! {smile}

Now, most of my regular readers know that while I do consider myself to be Christian, for the most part, I do not press religious aspects on this blog since all of my readers may not be religious!  But there is one ethical principle that I think applies across the board to humanity and that is the Ethic of Reciprocity. Often referred to simply as The Golden Rule in Christianity, it is just a simple principle that states we are to treat other people as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

I think in this day and age that principle has been all but lost.

I am horribly sick today.  No, it's not a "bug" I picked up. No, it's not a hangover from that great Spring Sangria recipe I whipped up and brought to our big Easter supper, a big hit too by the way!  No, I haven't picked up a cold.  It's my neighbors. They are making me sick.

It started with the folks right next door to us on the west side. Then it was the neighbors to the southwest of us. And yesterday, on a Sunday, on Easter Sunday no less when families would be outside doing Easter egg hunts with their children and grandchildren, my neighbors right next door to us to the east did it.

Burning leaves.  Using accelerants to light those leaves. And polluting the air the ENTIRE day (and smoldering for days after) with thick smoke.

I am an ex-smoker.  It's been some years since I last had a cigarette thank god, but I finally quit that habit and I am so happy that I did.  It took me a long time - those things are highly addictive - and if there is a way to stop smoking, I am absolutely certain that I tried it at some point.  The transformation came when I heard of someone who addressed an addiction by prayer, and by asking God to remove the desire for that substance. I thought, I've tried everything else BUT prayer, so why not?  {Isn't that just like us humans to go to God only as our last resort?}

At that time of my life, I was having breakfast with God every morning before work and keeping a written prayer journal, so I sat down and actually wrote out a prayer asking God to remove my desire to smoke, and then openly prayed that prayer aloud.  I still have that prayer journal around here somewhere.  I literally quit smoking right then, and was shocked when the next morning I had no desire for a cigarette at all.  And, I haven't had a desire for one since! Yep. After all those quit smoking "methods" I had tried, seems prayer was my answer to quitting flat out cold turkey. Well, go figure and Praise God, is all I can say about that!

But something else happened with my body when that desire was removed. Smoke, in any form, now makes me very sick.  If you've ever suffered through any addiction, you know. All it takes is one - whether it's drugs, or alcohol, or gambling or cigarettes, or whatever. Give in one time, and you'll be right back in the throes of addiction immediately.  I teasingly say that my allergy to smoke is God's way of making sure I never smoke again!

I am now fully allergic to smoke, chemically sensitive to the smoke from most (cheap) cigarettes and even third hand smoke makes me sick.  A few years later, The Cajun also quit smoking, but if he comes home with smoke on his hair or clothing from being around other smokers, I start coughing, my nasal passages close up and my chest feels heavy - just as if I'd been smoking a carton of cigarettes right in a row! The second hand smell of cigarette smoke - in other words being personally in the presence of someone who is smoking or has recently smoked - has the same effect and in fact, also makes me immediately nauseous. 

The smoke from burning leaves does the same thing, and the residual smoke that clings to the air afterward continues to affect me until the air clears.  I have learned that it is not necessarily the "smoke" itself I am sensitive or allergic to, but the chemicals that are put out by leaves burning.

My Annoying Leaf Burning Neighbors were already burning leaves when The Cajun went over and asked them not to, telling them that I am allergic.  Fortunately we left to go to my son's, but when we got home later that evening, the fire was still smoldering.  They didn't put it out, and in fact, continued feeding and burning it.  Even today, residual smoke is still hanging in the air, and when I went out to enjoy this gorgeous day and work in my garden, I immediately began to have coughing fits and my nasal passages completely stopped up!  Smoke from burning leaves, gives me a horrible headache, and flu like symptoms that will stick with me for several days. My nasal passages get so irritated that my nose bleeds!

UPDATE:  I cannot believe this but my Annoying Leaf Burning Neighbors, even after being told that this makes me sick, burned leaves again today! I have a word for people like that, and it ain't a nice one. God this one is in your hands.

All this to say, people PLEASE, if you live in a suburban neighborhood, whether it be in an incorporated or unincorporated area of your county or parish, please remember that what you do, doesn't only affect you alone.  Even if there is no ordinance in place making something illegal to do, or no protective covenants that says you can't do something, does not automatically make it right to do. Use the brain that God gave you.

If your dog is barking hours on end, yes during the day, or night, or whenever, do something about it!  If your garbage spilled out of your can because a raccoon got into it, don't just ignore it and leave it spread out in the ditch in front of your house. Pick it up!  And while I'm at it - why is it so hard to put your garbage cans a few feet further away on the side of your house? They have wheels on them! Please stop "decorating" the front of your house with ugly, nasty garbage cans. They are gross and unsightly.  If your kids are outside blasting a boom box with rap music, yes, your neighbors are affected. Tell them to take it inside to their room where only you are affected.  If your kids are unruly, carrying on, crying or repeatedly screaming at the top of their lungs outside, maybe it's time to bring them inside?  You know, where only you are affected by your screaming kids, and not all of your neighbors? {These are all very real events that I have experienced just here lately} Think people. Just think.

You live in a neighborhood - with houses on top of each other - act like you care about your neighbors. Use some common sense and consideration. And if you want to just do your own thing with no regard for how it affects others, maybe it's time to buy about 20 acres of land up north.

And for pete's sake, PLEASE don't burn leaves.  It is illegal to burn in most incorporated areas of your city for a reason and even if there is no ordinance in place for the unincorporated areas of your county, guess what? People still have legal recourse under nuisance laws and can sue you.

Here's my paralegal hat coming on... A person has a right to the quiet enjoyment and use of their land under the law, regardless of whether they live in a city or in the county. A private nuisance is something that interferes with that person's use of their property in the manner of comfort, convenience, or health, or in some way disturbs an occupant's mental tranquility. That can include foul odors, SMOKE, dust, loud noises, including excessively barking dogs, or dogs that act vicious or aggressive, even if any injury is only threatened and not actual.

So unless you live way out in the country, where you have no immediate neighbors and plenty of acreage around you, just stop burning leaves!!  The county will pick up your leaves where I live and you don't even have to bag them. Just rake them up like you are already doing anyway, and wheel or rake them straight to the curb. Use your mower to mulch and bag them and put them in a compost pile, or as mulch in your gardens.  Or bag them up to put on the roadside for somebody else to pick up and use as mulch.

You may have a neighbor who is asthmatic or allergic, or they may have children or a spouse who is, and polluting the air with your smoke is going to affect their health!! Here's a great document from the EPA that addresses the pollution and the health risks involved with open burning of leaves.

PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES. What if it was YOU or YOUR spouse, or YOUR children, or YOUR grandchildren who was allergic, or had asthma? How would you feel then?

My guess is it'd be a whole different story then, wouldn't it?

Update 4/7

My Annoying Leaf Burning Neighbors is at it again today (3rd burn in 4 days) and when I approached her today about it seeping into my house through my attic, making me sick (I am allergic), and making it impossible for me to be outside at all, she flat out told me to "get over myself," and "I have no intention to stop burning my leaves."

And she is a nurse.  Sigh....  This is the kind of neighbor I have been living next door to for about 13 years. Thank GOD that there is a no burn ordinance set to be heard before our board of supervisors next week. Seems I am not the only one who takes issue with the effects of leaving your neighborhood smelling like an ashtray for days. I can only pray that it passes.

Update: The cowards on our board of supervisors kept tabling this issue until spring passed and the leaf falling season was over. Unbelievable. 

On to gardening ... not that I could do any of that after the pyromaniacs started again today.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 
~Matthew 7:12 NIV


  1. Two of my neighbors have wood burning stoves, and I dread winter weather mostly for that reason. The smoke burns my eyes and gives me headaches!

  2. Hi Lisa, thanks for reading my rant! :)

    For some reason I don't seem to be as bothered by wood burning unless the air is stagnant and not moving. In fact I love burning a fire occasionally but it could be certain types of wood, or simply the act of a chimney carrying it up into the atmosphere and not along the ground, I don't know. It can be bad though if the smoke is just hanging in the air at ground level. Ugh.

  3. You know what? My husband is exactly the same way! He never was hard addicted to smoking but he lived in a home where his dad smoked all of the time, even in the house. And, now he can not even get close to smoke without his sinuses swelling and getting sick. I hope you feel better quickly.

  4. I ain't touching this subject with a ten-foot pole! lol! I'll just say I hope you feel better very soon and that the neighbors run out of leaves quickly! It's very hard to find a neighborhood that is mellow!

  5. What? Holly not sayin' what's on her mind?? I'm gonna grab my flail watch out!! ;)

    For the record I am completely stopped up, can't breathe, have a headache, my lungs hurt and I'm miserable. All because somebody is too *$@# lazy to pick up leaves and bag them instead of raking them in a pile and burning them where they are. Grrrr...

  6. We call them "The Burners" around here, never fails I'll open my windows for some fresh air and the neighbors have decided it's a beautiful enough day for burning. That smell stays and stays even if I manage to get the windows closed. So rude, I agree.

  7. Anony - Ugh. I so agree. The smoke leaks into the house vents, gets in my attic and makes the whole house smell of smoke - even without a single window open! I walked in my bedroom and it smelled as if somebody had been smoking cigarettes in there!

  8. Besides leaning the Golden Rule in Sunday School, they use to teach it in school. Not anymore.

    We live in the country but we have a neighbor who lives across a field from us but close enough we can see his house. He loves to burn anything plastic. Every day and I mean EVERY day he burns nasty smelling, not to mention toxic fumes, plastic. We can't figure out why but plastic everyday. And burning plastic really is toxic. I've tried to tell him but he is an ornery 'ol cuss.

    Sorry you are having to put up with ill mannered neighbors. Burning leaves and wood smoke bother me a lot too and I was never a smoker. Gives me sinus headaches.

    Hope you get to feeling better.

  9. I do not get why here in the South & Southwest (*Texas is really claimed by both of those portions of the geographic South)people think they have to light a match to everything in sight. It makes no sense. I just the most difficulty breathing around here when ranchers burn pastures off. The smoke hangs in the air for what seems like weeks. I feel your pain. Glad I found your blog. Amen to your leaf burning rant!!

  10. I feel so sorry for you! I have approximately FIVE neighbors - literally all around me (beside me and behind me) who EACH burn at LEAST once a month! Do the math! That is once a week or more!

    So far, this month (April 2010), my immediate neighbors have burned a total of SIX times and it's only April 23rd!!

  11. Bless you all for saying what you have. I was beginning to think I was the only one to have this kind of issue. My neighbor burns wood all night long in a fire pit and twenty tiki torches with citronella and stinky insect repelling candles. It goes on until three in the morning. My husband does not care, but I am extremely sick. I even have to sleep on a sofa downstairs lately. The windows are closed and my neighbor does not believe it is possible for the smells to come in. This is a nightmare, what can I do to stop him?

  12. Maria, sorry to hear this. People like that don't belong in subdivisions and should be out in the country with no neighbors around. If your neighbor won't be reasonable and understand that it is affecting your health, and you don't have a burn ordinance in place, then you have to document everything and take them to small claims court. I'm afraid that is the only way to do much about it. Best of luck with it.

  13. I totally agree with you about the leaf burning. I've been in Mississippi for 3 years now. My last home was New York where you cannot smoke indoors or anywhere unless it's on the street. I have never smoked so I don't know the price of a pack of cigarettes but I understand they are a small fortune because of the health risks. Leaf burning has the same effects on the body as smoking. I am so sick and tired of my leaf burning neighbors bringing their smoke into my home. I live in a small town. The mayor lives down the street from my home. As far as I know the only ordinance that is in place is "call the police or the fire department". I just sent an e-mail to the the EPA asking if there is anyone in that I could contact in the State of Mississippi about this problem. I am so upset that in this "bible belt" town where everyone claims to "love the Lord" the most basic of principles "Love They Neighbor" is routinely ignored. This is a major health issue. I will share any information that I receive from the EPA.

  14. Thanks so much! I am wondering if I am going to have to take this to court this spring but I guess time will tell.

  15. I happened across this post while looking for a way to deal with my neighbors who will not stop burning their leaves, and I completely agree with you. While I have never smoked, I do have asthma from my allergies. I only get asthma during the spring season because the pollen closes up my windpipe and messes with my lungs, and then when my annoying neighbors burn leaves, it makes me go nuts. That's not to say that them burning leaves does not bother me during the other seasons, it is just worse during spring. I have said something to the neighbor right next door and he doesn't care. In fact, he has been burning leaves for the past 4 days with 2-3 fires going at one time. It makes me wonder, if he is so worried about the leaves on his lawn, why does he not care about the huge burn piles scattered around his lawn. After reading your post, I figure it's probably just laziness, but I wish we had laws against them burning. I actually found out that while they were burning from December to February it was illegal because we had a burn ban. Too bad I didn't know that before today.

  16. I so sympathize with you. Last spring I went around 3 city blocks and handed out or left a 2 page flyer on my neighbor's homes that explained what the smoke does to people like me with lung issue and a copy of the paper from the EPA site that explains the chemical process that happens with burning. One of my next door neighbor's continued to burn so I threatened them with legal action because they are both preventing me from using my own property, and they are causing me serious health issues. They stopped burning but they no longer speak to me either. The other neighbor who is a "nurse" apparently had her husband take the notice I distributed to an attorney who apparently told them that yes, they could be sued. So they stopped, but that is the only reason they stopped. She hated me since I've lived her but she really hates me now. Most everybody out here has quit, but there are still a few who burn - some do it at night hoping their neighbors won't know. I have one neighbor a few houses away who is like yours - he's been told what it does to me & others with lung issues, but he shrugs his shoulders, gives you a dumb look & doesn't care. I figure that karma will get him eventually & frankly I hope he experiences the things that we feel from that exposure one day. I now have 4 air cleaners in my house with at least 2 of them going all day long. That really has helped tremendously! I also have 2 salt lamps - not sure if they're doing anything really but they're nice to look at LOL!! I purchased some of those ear loop masks to wear outside when somebody is burning. At least I can say that with all of that, I'm not suffering as bad as I was when I first wrote this post.

  17. I lived in a county neighborhood and went through the same thing. We had two neighbors behind us that together made one big pile at the back edge of my yard. Not only did they burn leaves but all through the summer they would catch and pile their green moldy grass and set it on fire. It would smolder for days and days. I stayed sick all the time and like you the house smelled of smoke constantly. Couldn't go out side, and they too burned on Easter Sunday when my children were young. This went on for many years. It all came to a head on my anniversary one year. The burn pile had reduced down to a small trail of smoke coming out of the center. We wanted to go outside and take a swim in our backyard pool. We tried to enjoy it and the wind kept shifting our way. I started getting really sick again and my husband got the hose and went to the edge of the fence and sprayed water on it to stop the smoldering. The neighbor doing this was also a preacher. You would think that being a self proclaimed man of God he would have shown compassion. Not so. He saw us out in the yard and came out to check his burn pile and started ranting and raving and literally blessing us out. He asked us if we put his burn pile out and of course we said yes, that we had sprayed it with water to keep the smoke down for bit as it was our anniversary and we wanted to enjoy being outside in the last days of summer. I have never seen such a sight as he was that day. It was terrible and I said some things to him I shouldn't have said but I had been holding it in for years and years and staying sick and crying wishing it would just stop. Looking forward to any day that he didn't burn but it was burning and smoldering non stop. It was that day that we decided to move away from our home. We bought another house and still own the other house. I can't even go down there without the fear of smoke and burning.

    This preacher I found out later had been asked to leave the church where he preached. I could hear him on his back patio in the mornings practicing his sermons while he was preaching. I could hear him mentoring his parishioners on the phone at all hours of the day and night. I could hear him screaming and yelling at his wife, telling her to shut up she didn't know what she was talking about. He was very abusive to her.

    I really miss my home. I am in a safer place and my body is healing slowly. Seems to take forever. Everything inside and outside that house down there smells of smoke. I wanted to keep the house and eventually go back home but it isn't going to be feasible. I have cried myself to sleep so many nights wishing I could go home. It just isn't right for this to happen to anyone. There should be laws against it. I would sue him if I could because it has hurt me physically, emotionally, and financially.

    We moved in a wooded area and still smell smoke every once in a while but nothing like it was down there. We have neighbors but they are through the trees and it feels secluded here, especially in the summer. I feel sorry for his wife but she follows around him like a little lost puppy. He bosses her hatefully and calls himself a man of God.

    I actually told him that he proclaimed himself to be a man of God but he needed to check the number he was dialing because I think you have the wrong number.

    I have never in my life had an issue with any neighbor I have ever had. Why on earth would a preacher do this sort of thing. I guess I will always want to go back to my home. The home where I raised my children, had a wonderful garden, and share many special memories. It feels like I am just visiting here in this new house and I just wish there was a way I could go back home.

    1. Oh my goodness... this made me incredibly sad. I miss my old house tremendously. I spent a lot of time and energy on gardening there, but that also made it a quick sale for the new buyers, who are much younger and really needed that house, at that moment. I love my new house too though. Much much more room, features I didn't have at the old house, so it's all good! I pray that you can find your way back home and in the meantime, have peace.


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