Fighting the Love Canal
Photo By Marti Kaplan
“When people work locally to fight chemicals, we can change the world and make it a healthier place.”
Twenty-six years ago Lois Gibbs came face to face with every homeowner’s worst nightmare: Love Canal. She emerged a tireless fighter for clean communities.
Toxic Home: In 1972, Gibbs and her husband invested their life savings in a Niagara Falls, New York, bungalow. They didn’t know that 22,000 tons of toxic waste bubbled underneath in the long-forgotten Love Canal. In a neighborhood where miscarriages, disease, and deformities were common, her two children fell ill.
Fighting Mad: When a newspaper article tipped her off to the chemical contamination, Gibbs went door to door and united her neighbors to initiate a lawsuit demanding a government buyout. The Carter administration complied in 1980.
Safe for Kids: Following a divorce, Gibbs and her children moved to Washington, D.C., to found the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, which works with more than 8,000 groups seeking relief from industrial contamination. Her “Be Safe” campaign advocates for manufacturing laws that safeguard children from chemical exposures: BeSafeNet.com.
Living Green: Gibbs did extensive research before she bought her current home and chooses natural products such as organic bedding, non-PVC water lines, and solvent-free finishes for her hardwood floors.
Buyer Beware: To avoid buying contaminated land, check Scorecard.org for nearby factories and Superfund sites, Gibbs says. Also visit the county deed office to investigate polluting businesses such as dry cleaners or gas stations. Call state environmental groups to inquire about local industrial hazards.
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