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November 3, 1978

Lessons from Love Canal

JAMA. 1978;240(19):2033-2034. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290190011002

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"Love Canal?" Someone asks, about ten years from now. "Oh, yeah. That was in Niagara Falls, NY. Turned into a ghost area. Some chemicals had been buried and forgotten there about 30 years before, and people got poisoned from them, or at least thought they got poisoned. They all moved away."

The Love Canal emergency, in present day, is a unique event. It is an unprecedented case of mass public exposure to toxic chemical wastes. Never before, to anyone's knowledge, has such a large group of people been exposed to such a wide range of potentially harmful chemicals for such a prolonged period.

To the 239 families whose lives have been devastated by the bubbling well of pesticide waste, the situation has been inadequately explained as a public health time bomb that just happened to explode at their feet. New York State health officials, who mounted a massive effort to