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.
“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 Nation, 5/23/81, “Love Canal Children: Leftover Lives To Live” by Tracy Freedman.