Despite Love Canal’s lessons, schoolchildren are still at risk


Thirty years ago this summer, America learned the name Love Canal. The working-class Niagara Falls neighborhood built atop tons of chemical waste became a synonym for environmental disaster.

Troubles at the local elementary school — and health problems among its students, such as seizure disorders — were among the first signs of a much larger problem that made news around the world and prompted federal Superfund legislation to clean up the most polluted sites in the United States.

Despite the outcry over Love Canal, little has been done to make schoolchildren safer from hazardous or toxic waste, says Lois Gibbs, who headed the Love Canal Homeowners Association and now runs the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

“We should be farther along today than we are,” said Gibbs, who started the nonprofit a year after her evacuation from Love Canal. The organization is dedicated to helping communities facing environmental threats.

A 2005 study by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice looking at just four states — Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Michigan — found half a million children attending schools within half a mile of known toxic dumps.

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