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Love Canal: Children and Toxic Waste


In 1978 the issue of toxic waste began bubbling up in a neighborhood called Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York. It was neither the first nor the worst toxic waste dump in the country. However, Love Canal became a national story thanks to the organizing efforts of Lois Gibbs, a mother who fought to protect Love Canal’s children, including her own, from the 20,000 tons of toxic waste seeping up from the ground below them.

Watch Film Excerpt: Lois Gibbs and Love Canal

When Gibbs read a newspaper article that revealed her son’s school had been built above a┬áchemical waste dump site, she tried to have him transferred out of the school. The school superintendent refused the concerned mother’s request, suggesting he could not move more than four-hundred children out of the school due to one “sickly child.”

Gibbs began circulating a petition to close the school among area families and soon discovered that her child was not the only one suffering from unexplained illnesses.

This film excerpt from A Fierce Green Fire tells just the early stages of community activism in Love Canal, which became the nation’s first Superfund site in 1980.

American Masters presents A Fierce Green Fire, the first big-picture exploration of the environmental movement, premiering nationally Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 9-10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Earth Day.


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