Saturday, November 29, 2008

Toxic Chemicals, Love Canal, and Our Health

"Today, nearly half of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of one of EPA’s 1304 active and proposed Superfund sites, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group dedicated to investigative journalism."
I found a fascinating article via the Canary Report about Love Canal... have you ever heard of it? The name was most appropriate before the residents of the area were given an emergency evacuation due to a gumbo of chemicals that began bubbling out of the ground in the school yard and seeping out multi colored goo from their basement walls, causing birth defects and illness to double in their area. It took a few years and a huge community rising to get the government to buy out all their houses and clean up the mess- for quite a while these residents were told that there was no evidence that it was harming their health.

"... one-quarter of the waste was benzene hexachloride, the main component of the pesticide lindane, a neurotoxin. There were chlorobenzenes (used in the synthesis of DDT) and dozens of other organic chemicals, many of which were known to be toxic. The waste also contained an estimated 120 pounds of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, commonly called dioxin, which is a byproduct of trichlorophenol manufacture. At the time dioxin was buried at Love Canal, it was not thought to cause disease, but it is now known as one of the most carcinogenic chemicals in the world. "

When the community tried to speak out the government said their testimonials to what was happening in their area was "useless housewife data".
This was back in 1978.
Now we are in 2008 nearly 30 years later and much of the same environmental crisis is going on- much of which is on a large & mysterious scale. One of the major problems for Love Canal was that no matter how people tried to use their voices to say something was wrong, the government only would act on substantial data that they could measure by standards they made up. Tests which couldn't measure much of anything at the time, and unfortunately have scarcely been updated in 30 years. Which is where the major problem lies since the standards of the EPA are , ehem , let's say not in the people's favor as much as they are in industries favor. Marketing & money now talks the talk and educates the masses, with nothing but nonsense to make a sale, to get us all to buy into their products and consumerism. Most of the products we buy have never been tested for chemical exposure safety, how they mix with other common products and what's worse is how they are manufactured is polluting our basic needs too- when the US wants even looser restrictions it just outsources their factory to a poor country and poisons their land & people instead. Some of which that very air pollution is blowing back our way.

While standards for toxic dumping (like what happened at Love Canal) have tightened some, we are still behind the times for testing the mixture of chemical products we bring into our home, build our home with, and shop for in stores. If you are questioning whether we are brainwashed into toxic consumerism and educated by marketing and not with real knowledge just look to the tragedy at Walmart where the worker was trampled to death by swarms of anxious customers convinced they had to get a good deal on Black Friday (at the expense of killing someone and injuring others). This type of tragic acceptance & anxiety on a mass scale is what leads to the environmental disaster that is taking place. I am not even speaking about global warming, or animals going extinct, glaziers melting, or trees being cut down at alarming rates - those are the issues that half the country seems to think are silly "treehugger" ideas. The disaster is right under your nose, under your kitchen sink, filling your washer machine, spewing into the air, on your walls and in your bottle of shampoo. The mixing of all the chemical fragrances (perfume, shampoo, lotion), bleach, household cleaners, detergent chems, preservatives & additives in your food, the paint out gassing on your walls that now contains anti-mildew chems too - stop and think about how you are mixing all these each day, and stop to think of how many people you know with chronic, re-occurring, mysterious health problems, ones that are just achy and the ones that are dieing of cancer.

In reality when we buy into the marketing bullshit we are paying big corporations & big pharma to destroy our health, so that they can fly in their private jets, wear expensive clothes, live in huge houses, and buy more destructive junk being sold by another rich company - continuing a cycle of the rich sickening (or killing) the poor for their own luxuries. We are paying their way and paying all the consequences, and the government sits back and let's it happen because these giant companies are paying government officials too. We all know it is happening, so why are we letting it?
Even in economic strife we must stay strong on demanding the health standards we deserve. And not buy into the big corporation's brainwash, because following their lead is creating a mini Love Canal in each of our homes, schools, and workplace - and in the air we breathe, the soil we grow food, and the water that is vital to our life.

Do you live near a Superfund site? Go HERE to check.

Want to learn more about where the stuff you buy really comes from? Go HERE to watch The Story of Stuff.

Watch a Documentary on Love Canal HERE.


sick nick said...

My family was effected by living too close to chemicals like this. I'm not sure exactly what kind they were but we were unknowingly (at the time) living very close to disposed chemicals. My brother was born with severe asthma and a 6th finger, I had clubbed feet, my mom developed environmental illness and lupus, and my father ended up with prostate cancer. This is a very real problem. It's good that the knowledge of health problems related to chemicals is getting more common but obviously we are still very far behind where we need to be.

Susie Collins said...

Leslie, this is a great post, full of info and insight. You are right, all these problems are interconnected.

The superfund problem may never go away because there simply isn't enough money to clean it all up, and in some cases it's impossible to clean up. Also, it seems that while everybody is focusing on Climate Change, superfund sites have dropped off the radar, it's just not the hip topic anymore. It's true, most people don't even know if they are living near one. So sad, so tragic.

The Oko Box said...

It is really sad how the public is kept in the dark and allowed to move right next to or on top of something that would make people sick & have birth defects. Many children at Love Canal were born with a 6th finger too... possibly similar chemicals were dumped. I am sorry that your family & you have had to deal with the effects of toxic dumping.

Susie- I am amazed that people are not being told when they buy or rent any property near a superfund site what is going on... even in the Love Canal article there was a man presently living right outside the fence who hadn't a clue when he moved in, and now won't let his kids play anywhere off their lawn. Maybe the government can't even clean some of the mess up, but they certainly could make a louder voice heard about their exsistence and have a LAW requiring property owners to disclose when they are near them. JUST like the lead paint mandate you have to sign if the house was built before a certain year. I am sure the government wants to be HUSH on this, otherwise it would be more well known. Possibly it's because many government officials were paid off by big companies to stay quiet?