Tonawanda News

Friday, January 11, 2002

GUEST COLUMN

We could be part of the proverbial 'future generation'

By Don Finch

 

Since the Western New York area has the highest rates of breast cancer and multiple sclerosis in the United States, I believe the following story (fictional, but entirely probable) could very well help to explain why this is so.

To those of you who may not be familiar with the area, all of the localities mentioned suffer from various types of environmental contamination. The contamination could be industrial toxics, heavy metals or radiation. (Or any combination of these.)

Note, this does not take into consideration the many cleansing products, pesticides, insecticides, etc. used daily around the house or farm.

The future generation

Perhaps we are part of that "future generation" that we speak of nowadays.

The problems:

* At present, it is not uncommon to hear of persons who are allergic to peanuts, household dust, cat or dog dander, lettuce preservatives (used in salads), household cleansers, etc. Why?

* In some cases, the allergic reaction is so severe that, if left unchecked, it may cause death. Why?

* It seems that years ago, we never heard of the many allergies that are present nowadays. Why?

* Western New York has the highest rates of breast cancer and muscular sclerosis in the US. Why?

* Western New York has high rates of respiratory ailments. Why?

Many people are starting to become concerned about the effects of long-term exposure to toxics, heavy metal and radioactive contamination on future, unborn generations.

Perhaps we are part of that "future generation" that we speak of nowadays.

A typical scenario

The "John Doe" Family

Let us assume that there are approximately 20 years between generations. Let us also assume the following:

* Grandpa George Doe (80 years old) worked all his life at the Bethlehem Lackawanna steel mill. He and his wife Margaret live in the city of Lackawanna.

* Father Bill Doe (60 years old) worked at Linde/Praxair for 20 years or more. He was an hourly employee and worked in buildings that were contaminated with leftover uranium contamination. He and his wife Barbara live in Sheridan Parkside Courts.

* Son Jim Doe (40 years old) works at the FMC chemical factory in the Town of Tonawanda on Sawyer Avenue. He and his wife Ellen also live on Sawyer Avenue close to the Huntley Station, a coal fired electricity generating plant.

* Grandson John Doe (20 years old) works for ABC Lawn Service applying pesticides. He and his wife Christine and two children live in the Bellevue section of Cheektowaga. (Known locally as the "Toxic Triangle.")

* The entire Doe family, from grandparents on down, eat a fair amount of fish that have been caught locally.

* Some of them have their lawns treated with pesticides so they can have the best looking yard on the street.

Note 1: In each case, the wives became "stay at home mothers" as soon as the first child was born. That means that each of the wives was exposed to the local pollutants (where they lived) 24/7/365.

Note 2: Each of the husbands probably unknowingly brought contamination home on work clothes. These clothes were washed along with the family's other soiled laundry. They probably also tracked contamination from work in on their shoes. The children, being very young, spent a lot of time playing on the floor and putting objects in their mouths as most little ones do.

Cumulative effects

Regulatory agencies were formed supposedly to make sure people wouldn't be exposed to excessive amounts of contaminants. Yet, none of these bureaucracies want to talk about the cumulative effects of exposure to the combination of pollutants which they are supposed to be (individually) protecting us from.

And, above all, no one, but no one wants to talk about the cumulative effects of all of the various pollutants that the average person may have been/is exposed to and the long-lasting effects of this exposure.

All we ever hear is it's not that bad, it's below regulatory concern, you can't prove a connection to this disease or that disease, etc.

I've yet to see any statistics on how much cumulative contamination the "Doe families" are exposed to in any given amount of time whether it be months or years.

One does not have to be a proverbial "rocket scientist" to figure that, in the cases mentioned in the Doe family above, their immune systems were/are under constant barrage.

May we assume at this point that through the various generations mentioned above that there have been subtle changes to their individual DNA molecular structures (genes)?

'Expert' response

It's about time that the shoe is put on the other foot. That is, it should be up to the "experts" to prove that these many, varied diseases are not caused by these various and cumulative exposures.

Some may say that the scenario presented here is too far fetched. But, is it, really? Think about it.

As I suggested at the beginning: Perhaps WE are part of that "future generation" that we speak of nowadays.

 

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DON FINCH, 68, is a longtime resident of the Town of Tonawanda. A 20-year employee of Linde/Praxair, Finch is the co-founder of F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site), Inc., a watchdog group.

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