BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Kansas City Southern railway runs through Gulfport. The company says to help maintain safety around the track structure, it sprays chemicals to help control vegetation.
However, residents living near the tracks in North Gulfport say they have been dealing with various health issues since the spraying began.
"Physically it gives me terrible headaches. The smell is unbearable, burning eyes, irritable throat, and I can't breathe. My chest starts hurting," said Gloria Threats.
Lenora Shaw, 87, says she can no longer remain outside for long periods of time.
"I'm not able to breathe, "said Shaw. "I have to use the inhaler a lot."
Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines wants the spraying of the chemicals to stop.
"They use to cut it. But I think they decided, Kansas City, that they were going to look at some cost measures that was a little inexpensive. This chemical is unacceptable," said Holmes-Hines.
Residents contacted Gulfport Fire Department Chief Mike Beyerstadt, who says he did research on the herbicides that are being used.
"We've done our research on it and found that the chemicals that the railway tells us they're using there are relatively non-hazardous to human beings, "said Beyerstadt.
He adds that the chemicals themselves do have some negative effects on humans, as displayed on the label's hazardous warnings.
The warnings say the chemical mixture causes eye irritation, respiratory irritation, drowsiness or dizziness, or even damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.
A spokesperson for the Kansas City Southern Railway sent a statement to WLOX, noting that spraying generally lasts longer than cutting, and extends benefits of the vegetation control over a longer period. Also, applicators maintain current Commercial Applicator Licenses for the state in which they work and is in compliance with the city.
Even so, Holmes-Hines isn't satisfied with the railway's response.
"The citizens are doing the first thing....asking Kansas City to become a good neighbor. They are not being a good neighbor right now," she said. "From there we'll continue to work with the city of Gulfport to ask them to stop the chemicals in this area. They need to go back to cutting the grass, like everyone else."
WLOX asked Kansas City Southern for the name of the company it hired to do the chemical spraying but has not received a response.