A few years ago, I developed a site locating on a map all contaminated sites in Montreal, Canada. This was done in an open data hackathon, with a team made of open data specialists as well as McGill University professors specialized in urban development.
I was surprised to discover that data is available for all, at municipal, provincial and federal level. I was also surprised to see that in what appears to be a highly livable Canadian city like Montreal, there were old contaminated sites everywhere. I checked a few addresses. One for example showed on Google Street View a nice colorful kids’ playground, but in fact used to be a contaminated gas station. So we have infants, kids and parents playing on top of chemicals, because the city decided the location wasn’t fit for construction. Nice!
On the southern parts of the city named Griffintown, developers were building luxury condominiums where used to be industrial plants, with Bisphenol A (BPA) and PorpolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) contamination. These chemicals are highly toxic and remain in the environment for a long time, impacting the cardiovascular system, neuronal, cognition and also increases cancer risk.
And this is not limited to Montreal. You can go on Vox’s excellent lead exposure risk map, and discover that many cities like New York City or Philadelphia are blanketed with lead poisoning. This is an acute issue for children. Children that are lead poisoned are at risk of decreased IQ, delayed language acquisition, partial illiteracy, behavioral issues, organ failure, and even death. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that there is no amount of lead exposure that is considered safe for children.
So why don’t we speak about this?