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South Bay doctors worry sewage smell is causing patients respiratory illnesses

Posted at 11:27 PM, May 16, 2024

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) —There is growing concern from two South Bay doctors after they say they've seen a rise in respiratory illnesses at their urgent care clinic in recent weeks.

The physicians think the smell from the sewage problem in the South Bay makes their patients sick.

Dr. Matthew and Kimberly Dickson are the owners of South Bay Urgent Care.

"When the odor is bad at night, we see more patients requiring nebulizer treatments, more patients with asthma-type symptoms," Kimberly Dickson said.

The pair said they started to see a correlation in patients needing treatment for respiratory symptoms in the last few weeks when the smell was worse than usual.

"A year ago, vs now, that required breathing treatments here at our clinic and it went up 140%," Matthew Dickson said.

In late April - ABC 10News spoke with a mom who also felt there was a correlation between the smell and her two-year-old getting sick.

"He was up all night on and off, just coughing. I noticed when he started coughing my eyes are just stinging, watering," Marilynn Click said back in April.

The child’s symptoms match what the doctors describe seeing in their treatment rooms.

"People with wheezing, coughing, trouble breathing, whether it’s young children with asthma or the elderly with COPD or emphysema," Matthew Dickson said.

Last year, these same urgent care doctors also tracked gastrointestinal symptoms in their patients after big storms increased sewage-related runoff from Mexico, causing high bacteria levels in the water.

ABC 10News reached out to the County to see if they track or are seeing similar respiratory illnesses among South Bay residents and they sent us the following statement:

We can’t comment on an individual’s illness.

In general, we know smells can make people feel ill.

We also know that asthma attacks in individuals who already have the disease can be triggered by a number of things in the air.,also%20trigger%20an%20asthma%20attack [].

Countywide, asthma rates have ticked up slightly since 2020 and 2021, but this may be due to fewer people seeking care due to the high incidence of hospitalized COVID-19 cases at that time. They remain lower than rates from 2016 to 2019 and the South Region is experiencing the same trends as the other regions in the County in terms of asthma discharges.