Yet another family member, who lives in the immediate vicinity of Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, has been diagnosed with cancer, despite being a non-smoker. That brings the total to my grandfather, two aunts, an uncle, and now my dear cousin, all of whom have had to deal with some form of this disease: three different kinds in the last five years.
I was planning to head down to Alabama after graduation to research the area before this sad news, but this weekend I started researching the base (via Internet) a little earlier than anticipated. Apparently, Redstone Arsenal is an EPA Superfund site, due to chemical weapons production (beginning in World War II) and training exercises (conducted from 1972-1986, officially). The soil is still contaminated.
As our nation continues to produce these weapons for use far from sight of the typical US civilian, would the fact that our local communities are also exposed change policies regarding chemical weapons? Or would production just be shifted to even poorer communities elsewhere? I would love to hear from others who live in the areas surrounding this and other weapons manufacturers. Do you think these facilities’ practices have affected your health? What difficulties have you faced as a result?
And another older work by an author from 2006, Jacob Katriel, who tried to get answers about tear gas from a military representative of the Israeli Governmental Radio. Read what he wrote here.
This article addresses the dangers of tear gas and pepper spray after the 1999 Seattle WTO riots. Although 13 years have passed since Terry Allen wrote about the dangers of allowing corporations to define safety of these weapons, what has changed?
Yesterday was the two year anniversary of when I learned how quickly the joy of becoming a mother could turn into terror, as I was exposed to tear gas while chaperoning a field trip for the University of Washington in Athens, Greece. It was the start of panicked phone calls home to the States, trying to get straight answers from former colleagues with medical expertise and US doctors at Harborview, Seattle, and the US Poison Control. It was the start of two years of regrets. What if I had been more protective of the living being inside my body instead of feeling the need to remain calm and carry out my responsibility to my employer (an employer who felt no such reciprocal responsibility to me), to make sure that legally adult students were safe enough to attend an AEK soccer game. This was such an “important” event that men fought each other in parking lots. Police sprayed tear gas. And my baby died because I unknowingly walked into the middle of a battlefield as part of my job.
Anything can happen in a free world, but it’s a shame that we let this be an excuse for violence to continue. Why can the unpredictable nature of reality never work in favor of peace? What if peace just suddenly happened because it was more logical than inflicting pain? What if ethics just suddenly became a part of bureaucrats’ vocabulary? What if politicians stopped accepting payouts from weapons manufacturers and lobbyists, and stopped authorizing weapons that do more harm to the public than good? What if authorities stopped poisoning entire civilian populations with weapons banned for use in warfare, and what if there were no longer profit to be made off the suffering of others? What if the administration of the University of Washington Seattle just all of a sudden decided to pay the medical costs of the woman who was injured while trying to be a good employee?
Ask the President of the United States why the US still produces and distributes tear gas, when other countries have long recognized the dangers of this indiscriminate weapon:
Visitor’s Office: 202-456-2121
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Don’t just ask the Manufacturers which profit off the deaths of others: protest them.
Combined Systems Inc.
Defense Technology/Federal Laboratories/BAE
And if you have time after that, ask the UW administration why they forced an employee who lost her child while working for them to navigate an endless mine field of red tape for two years rather than pay for her medical expenses:
University of Washington President Michael Young
301 Gerberding Hall
Seattle, WA 98195
Justice and peace won’t spontaneously occur. Use your freedom to make a more better world. Act today.
Today is a bittersweet anniversary for me. Exactly two years ago, to the hour, I saw my first baby’s heartbeat on an ultrasound before being injured by tear gas a week later on assignment for the University of Washington and spending the following weeks trying to save my child in vain.
Once we knew it was too late, I was told not to cry, but women need to acknowledge these losses openly. Until we do, others will feel compelled to suffer silently. Politicians will continue to make adequate reproductive health insurance impossible at a time when women need it most — surgical procedures after miscarriage are not automatically covered, so I am still fighting the Washington State L&I for reimbursement. And authorities will continue to blatantly disregard public health by indiscriminately deploying chemical weapons banned from use in warfare, but somehow still legal to use on innocent civilians.
Join me in the fight to protect others from needless suffering. In honor of the women in Bahrain, Greece, US, and other countries who have lost their children and face the threat of future losses, take a stand. In honor of those who have died or witnessed others’ deaths from “inappropriate” use of tear gas (when in reality there is no appropriate use), speak up.
Some things in life cannot be undone, but we can prevent them from happening again.
Write your politicians: Ban the production and distribution of tear gas now. Protest. Let others know about the dangers of this weapon, even if you don’t think you will be exposed.
Please go to the following link for Human Rights TV’s take on US involvement in Bahrain: http://news.humanrightstv.com/news/2012/op-ed-us-manufactured-tear-gas-causes-miscarriage.
Join us in our mission to ban the use of tear gas and other chemical weapons worldwide.