Poverty, Poisons, Physicians and Prisons

Photo: court records Mr. Gray lead paint.

In the wealthiest country in the world we should be ashamed. America takes the most vulnerable among us and choses to further abuse and oppresses them. It is a vicious circle of poison and poverty that leads to young men and women ending up dead or in prisons.

Many low income families’ only opportunity to purchase homes is near polluting facilities or contaminated lands. Moreover, historical communities’ especially African American and Latino neighborhoods were only allowed to be built in certain sections of a city or town because of their race. Later polluting industries were built around those sections of the city with communities of color creating a poisonous environment for innocent families. Consequently, their children poisoned by lead or toxic chemicals in the air or soils become sick. Many children miss too many days from school and fall behind or develop different types of learning disabilities, creating a situation where they cannot succeed in school. Due to the public schools depending on the tax base, which the polluting industry often doesn’t contribute any taxes, is unable to hire enough special education teachers to help children succeed. Students become frustrated and drop out of school ending up on the streets, often getting in trouble.

Poisoned young people, like Freddie Gray killed in police custody in Maryland, was lead poisoned. His aggressive behavior (if that even happened) could have been a result of toxic poisoning. There are 100’s of conclusive studies on lead exposures documenting a cause of aggressive behavior.  Freddie Gray sadly died at 25 years of age but many young men don’t die they end up in prison. Their parents had the same dreams for their children as those who are wealthy. But their children have little chance of obtaining that dream because they were poisoned without their knowledge or consent.

Prison isn’t free of chemicals either adding an additional burden to victims. At least 589 federal and state prisons are located within three miles of a Superfund cleanup site on the National Priorities List for the most dangerous sites in the country, with 134 of those prisons located within just one mile. Furthermore, it is common practice to build prisons on former industrial sites which are hosts to a myriad of health hazards.

Poverty keeps families from living in safe unpolluted environments. American builds “affordable housing” often on top of poisoned soil. Today the state of Indiana is trying to find housing for hundreds of families in East Calumet because the land is so contaminated with lead and other chemicals that no one can live there. Yet families have lived there for years with young children playing on that contaminated soil.

Today, America is furthering the perpetual violations of the poor the most vulnerable among us taking away what little health care they have. Children in poisoned communities can’t breathe due to air contamination. They need asthma medication. In some communities there are clusters of childhood cancers with victims who need extensive medical attention. Routine baby clinics and blood testing for lead is not an option, parents must be able to secure that care.

If the Trump administration has their way they will let the poor and communities of color continue to be poisoned with no ability to seek medical attention. Young people already poisoned will end up in prison or dead on the streets.  Parents with dreams for their children to get out of the circle of poison and poverty are fighting back and if we all join them we can win justice for all, not just the privileged.