I saw the news story last week and panic set in at rapid pace. I frantically read the article titled, State Finds Alarmingly High Arsenic and Cadmium Levels Near Two SE Portland Schools. It stated that arsenic and cadmium levels are WELL above the healthy air safety benchmark in my neighborhood, near schools and a daycare facility. Not only is it in our air, it’s probably in our soil. The soil that my children play in. The soil that we have planted “organic” gardens in and eat out of since we moved into our house, thinking that we were doing good for our bodies. Only to now learn we may be poisoning ourselves with toxins instead.
As parents we want nothing more than to protect our children at all costs. We live in a country where we expect regulations put into place that protect us from harm from extreme toxins like arsenic and cadmium. So when we realize that our so called “green living” city has been possibly covering up something like this for years, we are bewildered, angered and terrified for what that could mean for the health of our children and families.
After I found out, I’m pretty sure the first statement out of my mouth was not suitable for my children to hear. The second statement was “We have to move.” Perhaps a bit dramatic and extremist, but that’s how I felt. When the panic settled a little and we did some research we decided that we didn’t have to move…yet.
After the first community meeting on Monday night it came out that one of the biggest issues is that the company who’s been doing the polluting is not violating the law, even though the arsenic and cadmium toxins have been found to be above the air safety benchmark. So technically the government can tell us they’re in compliance…sort of trying to smooth things over. This obviously is not reassuring, and at this point I wouldn’t trust the government to do what is in the best interest of the people.
Arsenic and cadmium in the air and soil is a scary and complex issue, but there are some steps that we can take. There are some steps that we as moms, dads, families can and must take to make a change to protect our children.
- Stay informed about what is happening. There is a Facebook group called Inner SE Air Quality that is taking action.
- Get your children tested. This is definitely optional. We took our children into our pediatrician right away for a simple urine test. We are awaiting results now, but for my own peace of mind I had to have them tested. This was comforting on one hand and terrifying on the other. The doctor gave us lots of information about the chemicals we have been exposed to, and the possible future side effects. Whenever you hear a doctor utter the words cancer, your heart sinks to the pit of despair. I left in tears but also convinced that I had to know all the possibilities and outcomes.
- Attend meetings in your community where they are talking about this. You may not live near the source of this particular business that is contaminating our families, but it’s possible you might live near one in the future because the laws and regulations are no longer protecting us. In short, it could happen in your neighborhood too. Not only that, but Oregon’s air quality before this latest story broke is still one of the worst in the nation because of dirty diesel and industrial pollution. You can read more about that here.
- Neighbors for Clean Air has petitions you can sign on issues such as dumping dirty diesel, and over 90 other unregulated toxins that we’re exposed to.
- Volunteer on committees that are working to make changes.
- Contact your state legislators. Write letters and make phone calls until it moves them to action. Email Governor Kate Brown or Portland’s State Representative Rob Nosse.
I want to live in a world where I know my kids are safe, where I can plant my own garden, and not worry about toxic substances in the air poisoning us. We all want that freedom. If we don’t stand up for our children, give them a voice and a chance to speak about the future of their health then no one else will either. Let’s use our voices to take action. Lets bring about change.