Woman ‘can’t breathe’ without sleeping in wartime gas mask due to new neighbour

A woman has told how she is forced to wear a gas mask to sleep in because her small town is “like a gas chamber”.

Ukraine-born Svetlana, who lives with husband Brian Cohen in the Westport, New Zealand home, have been subjected to the horrendous experience because of a coal fire.

And it was started a year ago by their own neighbour.

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The engineer told Stuff website: “"Our small town is like a gas chamber now.

“Everywhere in town when you're doing shopping or just going for walks, you are breathing in toxic smoke.

“I can't breathe, I am coughing, my throat is burning, and I have pain in my chest – I am not living my life like this.

“I have to wear a gas mask as soon as our neighbour comes home from work and lights his fire.”

Having moved to the area recently, the failed to research into by-laws about coal fires – of which none exists in the area.

Therefore, their neighbour is allowed to light the fire, should he so choose.

And on the West Coast of New Zealand, where they live, around 34.3% of homes are heated in this way.

Costing around £70 for a trailer-load, an average home will need just two trailers to heat a home in the winter.

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However, Brian Cohen did speak to the neighbour about the damage the fire was doing to his wife's health, but two days later the fires started again.

Violently, he said: “Two days later, he lit his coal fire and I was really upset and actually threatened to go over and smash his head in, it just made me really angry.”

The threat saw him get a warning from the police.

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He added: “We as New Zealand residents have the right to breathe clean air.

“That is what the Clean Air Act states.

“Why do we not have the same rights as other regions in New Zealand?"

He had also been in touch with the local council, who can not do anything as it is not illegal in that area for coal fires to be burned.

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