The Circle of Poverty and Poison

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This past month I’ve spent time with several grassroots organizations fighting to protect their families from environmental chemical threats. In each case I was reminded of how impossible it is for parents, with dreams of a bright successful future for their children, to achieve their goals while living in the circle of poison and poverty.

Many parents in low wealth communities, tell the story of how they work hard to support their children in school. Moms and dads make sure their homework is done, provide the healthiest breakfast and lunch they can afford and attend as many meeting and events that time allows. They want their children to succeed in school, to learn the skills needed to later secure a job that will bring them a better life.

Yet, no matter how hard parents try they often can’t stop the environmental poisons in the air, water or land. As the children leave for school the toxic air triggers an asthma attack. A parent must lose a day of work, daily earnings, and take the child to the hospital or care for the child at home. When a child is exposed to other environmental chemicals, or maybe even the same ones that cause the asthma, they can suffer from various forms of central nervous system irritants that cause hyperactive behaviors, loss of IQ point or a host of other problems that interfere with learning potential.

The end result is the child becomes frustrated because s/he can’t keep up with what is required at school because of being sick or unable to focus and often drops out of school. That child and the parent’s dreams disappear. A healthy baby, poisoned for years from environmental chemicals, life is forever altered. Often unable to earn enough money to ever leave the poisoned community, possibly even raising their own families in that same neighborhood, continues another generation within the circle of poverty and poison.

America’s environmental protection agencies are responsible for a healthy environment. As we all know the agencies fail often and even more frequently in low wealth communities. In my conversations with leaders in such areas I hear over and over again, parents saying we had so much hope for our child but the chemicals destroyed that hope. Our family can’t afford to move and our children can’t succeed if we stay and they are poisoned. What are families supposed to do?  I can’t answer that question, except to say keep speaking up and out. Can you answer parent’s cries for a solution?

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