I have been thinking of criminal behavior lately, starting with a call from an investigator in a federal defender's office inquiring about a former student of mine who is on appeal for a capitol murder conviction. I remember him well, even after all these years.
The investigator was working on his appeal, hoping to save him from the death sentence he received to reduce it to life in prison. The investigator has come to Ottawa County several times and tracked down his school records and learned more about the boy's school behavior from interviews.
AND discovered he had grown up near the largest superfund site in the country and one EPA had designated lead as the "contaminate of concern" for our site. The investigator was working on other murder conviction appeals, and had found others had grown up near other superfund sites where lead was their contaminate of concern, too.
So many Ottawa County children were lead poisoned in the mid 1990's EPA began working to reduce those numbers by removing chat piles, remediating yards and playgrounds that were contaminated with lead. They are still spending money on these efforts because the EPA now says there is “no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood.”
Lead does most of its damage to the brain by mimicking calcium. Inside the brain, calcium triggers nerve firings, releases neurotransmitters, and activates proteins important for brain development, memory formation, and learning. Lead can seriously and permanently reduce IQ. It can change the way brain cells communicate and grow and can affect the dopamine system which controls the executive functions: judgment, reward and impulse behavior, relating to aggression.
Lead increases the odds that kids will develop ADHD, making it difficult to focus their attention in classes. Some exhibit disruptive behavior, make poor social choices and with these, some may later demonstrate criminal behavior.
This metal causes physical damage to the developing brain that persists into adulthood. It can do a number on our brains. And sometimes those affected do a number on others.
This week, the announcement of the arrest of a suspect in the murders of the 2 girls taken from a Welch residence in 1999 seems to be solved at last. But their last days were spent in the heart of our superfund site, before they were killed and left somewhere not yet found. A few years later only two blocks away Harvard placed the air monitor to collect dust that was loaded with lead and other heavy metals I changed weekly for 61 weeks. It is sobering to think killers had been so close, but cold chilling to know there were young girls hurt and sentenced to die by them.
There are a lot of reasons to prevent lead poisoning, but protecting children from torture is now on my list. I have no way of knowing if any of the 3 people assumed to have committed murder were lead poisoned as children.
But we do know that lead has been linked to criminal behavior in the research and our superfund site is loaded with lead, and there in the middle of it these girls suffered. And it makes me furious this happened.
We know this STUFF we know as chat is loaded with lead is still out there, piled up, blowing in the wind, sold and hauled away for safe uses by anybody wanting a load of it with the money to take to other communities and roadways from here to yonder.
600 acres of the superfund site has been cleared off and tons of the material separated to either build the newest mountain in Oklahoma or sold for the good of the roads we travel. But there are TONS more and miles of this stuff and our new status on the EPA's latest list of top superfund sites could mean action, like immediately for all the yards in the county. It has only brought funding for more acres, and we are grateful, but anxious, would more describe my feelings, like ONLY THIS MUCH? why not the whole thing, if we are so bad, why can't we get it all done? When is done happening?
Not another child should be lead poisoned. As long as that stuff is out there for the taking, the climbing, the sledding, the exploring will continue, and more goes home in the shoes that are worn, even more tracked in from our yards by each member of the family and each of the dogs and cats that come and go during the day, more blown in the wind. Hopefully the dust will not be worn home on the clothes of the folks doing the work on those acres, or operating the sites selling chat, so babies are safe giving a "daddy's home" hug.
We are dealing with dangerous stuff, stuff that can make some people dangerous criminals and others victims.
My sincerest regrets for the loss of the lives of Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible who were just kids on the road to the rest of their lives when they were taken.
Respectfully in Sorrow ~ Rebecca Jim