But the fires continued and the smoke blocked out the mountains and roads were closed, towns were being evacuated and so was the plan. After returning home the next book on the desk, Tainted Earth, was the obvious choice and the "Bunker Hill" chapter a must read before any visit to Idaho.
Our sisters and their children suffered lead poisoning way beyond the scope of Ottawa Counties' lead levels. The state of Idaho and the Bunker Hill Mining Company worked together for years to cover it up and enable the company owned by Gulf to continue making profits from the mining of silver, lead, cadmium and mercury.
The state and the mining company colluded to skew the data from research they funded. They first tested urine of children knowing that it was a poor measure for lead. They excluded children from the research with the highest lead levels and children whose parents had sued the company. The state of Idaho even refused to let CDC, the Center for Disease Control help.
Years ago after we incorporated LEAD Agency as a 501 c 3 organization, I met an angry woman at a meeting in Atlanta for CDC's other half, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR when I served on the Community and Tribal Subcommittee for the Board of Scientific Counselors. Her name was Barbara Miller and she had something to say but didn't get a turn before she had to leave, but left me a statement to read to the group the next day. After reading that chapter in Tainted Earth, I wish I had that statement to re-read now.
Susan Waldron was such an advocate for children at the Ottawa County Health Department, reading about her counterpart in the county health department in Idaho working against the health needs of their children was shocking. Years ago when we discovered the numbers of children lead poisoned in our county, I remember reaching out to the sister site in Idaho for copies of the outreach materials they were using there to HELP US HERE, not knowing that in 1980 that would have been the LAST place any useful materials would have been available.
No wonder Barbara Miller was so mad when I met her. She didn't have a Susan Waldron and her trusty Ramie Tirres, she didn't have an EPA Rafael Casanova to translate lead prevention materials and explain the need to have children's lead levels checked to our Hispanic parents. Those Silver Valley sisters and their children didn't have the tribal elders representing all the area tribes serving as Clanmother and Clanfather lay health advisors or the Cherokee Volunteer Society members sharing vital information to every mother and every child they could reach in the county. They didn't have the experts from the Harvard School of Public Health and a Children's Center doing topnotch research with mothers and their children like we did here at the Tar Creek Superfund site.
We have slacked up and the number of children in Ottawa County having their lead levels checked is low, but of the children being tested, some are having levels much higher than we were used to here, not as high as the Bunker Hill kids but high for us. A lead poisoned child gives few symptoms, but the effects from lead can last a lifetime.
I am not mad like Barbara Miller, but I am pushy and getting children checked for lead should be on every parent's list of to-dos. Find it high, then you can figure out where that exposure is coming from and it can be removed and your child's lead level can be reduced.
Years ago, MANY of our children were lead poisoned and at the time 10 micrograms per deciliter was high and alerted the parents of the danger. But now we know that NO level of lead is safe! Zero in one of the largest superfund sites in the country can be achieved. It will be easier when every yard in the county is lead safe, when every chat pile is gone. They aren't yet, so check your children, and have your own property checked for lead, have all the neighbors on the block do it.
And continue doing all you can to reduce exposure. Forsake the "Five Second Rule" when there could be lead in the dust on the floor, just don't do it. Remember Hand washing is important. Wash everything your child puts in her mouth, every time it is thrown on the floor for you to pick up! Keep outside toys outside, inside toys inside. Wet dust. Eat good nutritious food. Now that's my favorite rule.
Tainted Earth, Smelters, Public Health, and the Environment by Marianne Sullivan, 2014