Michigan grandmothers worried about affects of Chemical Valley

Heather Wright in Sarnia & Lambton This Week

Grandkids battle rare form of cancer

Valerie Benson six-year-old granddaughter Ashleigh, has cancer.

So does Sue Kulman’s. Ireland is only one but, like Ashleigh, has been battling a relatively rare form of cancer called Wilms Disease for much of her short life.

The children are part of a cancer cluster in St. Clair County, Michigan that is now being studied by an epidemiologist hired by the State of Michigan to try to figure out why so many people have suffered from Wilms.

But Benson and Kulman’s only need to look across the river to see what they suspect could be one of the sources of the cancer – Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.

The two women came to Sarnia recently to take part in a protest against Clean Harbors. That company is working with the Ministry of the Environment to stop overpowering odors which are drifting to neighbors property making them physically ill with vomiting and headaches.

Kulman says concerns over the vapor release is now stretching to Michigan.

“It scares us,” she says. “It makes us wonder if it could be carried through the air to our area and our citizens could be ill, too.

“We have a lot of empathy for these people. They have no place to escape this; their livelihoods are here, their families, their homes are here.”

But Benson says it is not just this incident. She says as people in St. Clair County talk about what they believe is high cancer rates, they’re looking over the river and wondering if the Chemical Valley could be part of the problem.

“We’re not really sure, you know what has cause it but just being downstream from Chemical Valley it puts up a lot of red flags,” says Benson.

“We don’t what’s in our drinking water. They’re not checking for every little chemical that is put into the water and nobody’s really checking the air over there. We don’t know what’s coming over.”

Kulman says Michigan residents aren’t pinning all the blame on Canadian companies. “We have polluters on our side, too. We’re just saying there is a strong environmental link and we’re trying to do everything we can to nail it down.”

Benson and Kulman did not come to Sarnia to force regulatory change, but to show support to the people who are suffering from the effects of industry.

The pair will be back in the future to have a tour of the Chemical Valley and to talk to local environmentalist about some of their concerns.

“We just want to figure out what is going on. There’s so many people with so with cancer and other diseases and nobody seems to be doing anything.”

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2 responses to “Michigan grandmothers worried about affects of Chemical Valley

  1. Please keep me posted, My son is looking for a home in those areas and he has a 20 month old toddler and another on the way. I am very concerned.

  2. Jean McFarland

    I lived in St. Clair County for 16 years, having moved from Oakland County. During the 16 years I lived there, I starting having astha, I never experienced this before; I attributed this to possibly a cat allergy as I did have cats while I lived there. The asthma caused me to be admitted to the hospital due to its severity. I moved out of the county for 7 years and the asthma symptoms disappeared. I recently moved back to St. Clair County and since that time the asthma symptoms have returned and I have to live with this daily and have a great difficulty breathing. I am forced to sell my house and move just to be able to breathe again.

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