25. THE CHILDREN OF LOVE CANAL: A WARNING FOR ALL
Most of us have heard of Love Canal by now. But few of us are aware
of what it revealed in terms of the unpublicized "bottom line"
of our society's degradation of the environment the impact on children,
the inheritors of our mistakes.
Tracy Freedman, an investigative journalist, told a story that all
Americans should have heard.
"Last summer, two girls and one boy who lived in the neighborhood
surrounding the Love Canal chemical dump committed suicide. The boy
was 16 and lived in a largely forgotten public housing project located
100 yards from the canal. The two girls were both 14. One shot herself;
the other reportedly died of an overdose of her mother's sleeping pills
-- sedatives which were prescribed to help the mother cope with the
problems of living near the nation's most notorious toxic-waste dump.
"These cases are extreme examples of the insidious effects of
Love Canal on the children. The psychological damage to young lives
has been considerable, yet this aspect has been little noticed by the
press. Children living near the canal where Hooker Chemical Company
dumped more than 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals in the late 1940s and
early 1950s are obsessed with fears of premature death.
"Very young children have chronic nightmares of toxins oozing
from their bodies, while others have regressed to bedwetting, baby talk
and clinging to their mothers. Children of 5 and 6 seem shy and disoriented,
according to teachers, doctors and parents, and they are bitter toward
the company they say 'poisoned' them. Some are shunned by their former
friends, who call them 'contaminated'."
Freedman's article continues with documentation on the devastating
effects of the tragedy on the children of Love Canal. They are the earliest
evidence of the psychological and social decay inflicted on a community
following a chemical-waste disaster.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we have 30,000 potential
Love Canal sites around the country.
The media's failure to fully inform us of what we are doing to future
generations qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best
censored" stories of 1981.
The Nation, 5/23/81, "Love Canal Children: Leftover Lives To Live"
by Tracy Freedman.