The Guilt.

From May of 2015, before we knew.
I took Sugar (my daughter, her nickname for this blog) to the park yesterday.  It was a rainy wet day.  She wanted to ride the merry go round. I let her climb on, and just as her hands grabbed onto the metal bar I thought, I bet that’s covered in arsenic and cadmium and chromium. 

It likely wasn’t. The rain had probably washed it away. Probably.

But there I was, at the park with my toddler, thinking about toxic metals. 

It’s our neighborhood park.  A five minute walk from our house.  It’s not the nicest park in the city.  Not even close. It borders Powell Boulevard, so it’s get a lot of loud traffic, some vagrants, probably some unsavory visitors. But it’s still our park. And the merry go round is pretty damn fun for a two year old. So we go.

But I’m mad that a trip to the park results in me questioning what she touches. What I’m touching.

Now there is a certain amount of guilt associated with allowing my child to go to the park.  If I let her go, she may be exposed to more things. The dirt is dirty. Like really dirty.

What if she eats it, as she is prone to do when she plays in it, then picks her nose, and eats it? She’s two, we’re working on it. 

Do we stay inside? Do we avoid the park, the sidewalk? Do we hide? How do I explain that to my child who wants to play?

Then that guilt snowballs. And maybe it’s just me, but I suspect there are many other parents in our area feeling like this right now.

We picked our house because of the large yard, the view of the west hills, the easy access to downtown, the hardwood floors tucked under the worn carpet. We didn’t have children then. We only dreamed about the possibility.  Now there is overwhelming, irrational yet overwhelming guilt that I picked this house and my child lives in it.  My dogs spend hours in the yard, rolling in and eating the dirt.  My entire family has eaten sugar snap peas and strawberries straight out of the yard. I picked this!

We picked Sugar’s childcare center because it was close, around the corner. The facility was bright and full of happy faces. They have documented curriculum. They have outdoor play areas, lots of them. Now there is overwhelming guilt that I picked a place where her outside time included incredibly high levels of metal toxics in the air. At times 165 times higher than recommended baselines for cadmium.  Do you know what that breaks down to? 1 in 6060 people getting cancer.  But then consider that children are considered more susceptible. I picked this!

DEQ and OHA will tell you that those numbers only matter at a 24 hour exposure, over a lifetime. Well folks, my kid does spend 24 hours a day in her neighborhood. And while she hasn’t lived her life out, it’s been her lifetime thus far.

So guilt. Lots of guilt. Cry in my car on the way to pick her up guilt.  Tossing and turning in bed guilt. Guilt.

I know we didn’t make our choices with the knowledge that something terrible was in the air. But I still feel guilty.

As some not so kind people on FB have pointed out to me, I am twit for living where I do.  Now bear with me, I know I’m not a twit, but I can follow some train of thought here. I choose to live in an inner SE neighborhood that has always had some form of industry in it. The train horns I so love to listen to at night carry with them pollution.  I drove past this glass company every single day for the ten years we’ve lived here and never really thought too much about what they do or how they do it. There was a metal smelting plant years ago, now an empty lot. The man that lived in our house years before us worked there. He died of lung cancer.


You can see why the guilt starts to add up.  What have we done?

But then I think about this company. That they knew. They claim they did not.

I’ve said this many times in the last few weeks:

How can you shovel arsenic/cadmium/hexavalent chromium into a furnace and not think that something bad will come of it? How?

So they blatantly let things go. They decided not to install filters that would capture the particulates they were releasing into the air.  They let us trust them to do that.

I just blindly trusted them. Guilty as charged.

Now I know better.

But I still feel guilt that is hard to explain.  Hard to reconcile. And it's all day long. And it eats at you. And there is nothing within my power, right this moment that can fix it. Nothing. I feel helpless to fix this because the damage is done. 

As if parenting didn’t carry daily guilt with it. Now I will always worry that a harmless cough is really something more.  

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