It isn’t a place or a brand new museum. You don’t go there to explore. Perhaps you might think of it as a way to explain us. Who we are, or how we have come to be how we are. What has made us be sick or well, may be much more complicated than relying on our zip codes and race and age.
What if there was a map of sorts attached to us, way before we were born, perhaps reaching us even before our mothers were born and identifiers with a substance, date and place were paintballed on us invisibly all through our lives, always with the place so we become a map-maker of the places we have been and when. And then that map could be overlaid with the industries, brownfields, superfund sites and worksites we lived by, traveled near, went to school next to or worked and when. And then the layer of our feelings and lived experiences, from joys to traumas, with special attention given to the periods we might be carrying our offspring so that those might then transfer to the little ones at birth.
These are the visions of the people I was sitting near and hearing these last 2 days in New York City. These are not comic book writers or makers of future movies. These are some of the most brilliant medical doctors, esteemed neuroscientists, epidemiologists and researchers in the country. They have tired of trying to figure us out within the 15 minutes they have in the examine room with us. What makes us sick? How can they find out? They are tired of guessing and trying to find funding to research the one shiny popular element to see if it is the one. When we are actually a living petri dish our whole lives being exposed to every thing we have eaten, breathed in and worn or swam in, all of it. Do they add it together and then divide by what and create the formula to provide the what did this to us?
One of the esteemed men knows us. He spent at least 10 years of his life knowing our mothers and your children and through the lens of a project investigator monitoring over 700 of our babies and detecting the metals we know are here that we go to bed with each night. The heavy metals that made paychecks for men in our county and wealth for those who invested to make it. But he couldn’t also measure the rest of the exposures they may have experienced in their short lives, the benzene, aspergillius fumagatus or asbestos and styrene that could have been complicating the way our metals whirled around their bloodstream.
Research is precise. You ask a question and find that answer or not. But not all the answers come because not all the questions can be asked in the funding cycle he and fellow truth seekers sought.
These frustrations but then add to this the pressure to find those answers by people like me and from each mother he faced and each child born to this place or the multiple other places he and this room full of truth seekers went during their careers.
And that might be what brought them together as one to think through the next way they do their work. We will be better for it. I would give them my addresses: where I live now, the places and dates of the befores, and they can have it. Track me, allow them to track you. Sign up when they develop the permission to access what made us this way. Let them have the keys to the answers WE WANT.
These minds are spinning and seeking these answers. What brought them to this quest is and has been US and of course Robert and Rosalind Wright who are co-directors of the Institute for Exposomic Research, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
They were listening all the time. And that awesome acknowledgment brings tears to me now. You were heard. Your suffering noted, your child’s struggles tally marked, with each data point now a nudge to all of these people to work faster, smarter and get to it now.
They know you are waiting. And we deserve the answers from people we know cared all that time and didn’t have the method, the process to figure us out.
They are on it. You really did matter to them. Remember the Exposome when you tune in to Science Friday one afternoon on NPR. You inspired it. The look from your eyes and the eyes of all the mothers who had children in the MATCH Project and other research projects around the country, forced these researchers to find new ways to give us answers. You did this.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim