Chapter 25 - Love canal: a classic case study of a contaminated community

Elsevier, An Introduction to Interdisciplinary Toxicology, From Molecules to Man, 2020, Pages 341-352
Duane A. Gill, Tamara L. Mix

From leaking storage facilities and transportation accidents to inadequate disposal of industrial and mining wastes, communities throughout the world have been exposed to a variety of xenobiotic contaminants. This chapter examines the contaminated community phenomenon by situating it within social science scholarship on hazards and disasters. Within this context, a contaminated community represents a type of “technological hazard/disaster” with sociocultural and psychosocial effects substantially different from what we have come to expect from natural hazards and disasters. Love Canal, a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, that garnered national attention beginning in the late 1970s because of exposure to hazardous wastes, provides a historical case study of a contaminated community and ensuing disaster. A brief overview of the Love Canal disaster is followed by a discussion of what makes Love Canal and other contaminated communities particularly onerous compared to natural disasters. We conclude by observing new forms of contamination events and linking contaminated community issues with environmental justice issues.