Linda Gillick is Healthy Child Healthy World’s June 2013 finalist for our Mom on a Mission® award. Read her first-person story below on how she became an advocate for children’s health.
By Linda Gillick, Founder of Ocean of Love, June 2013 Mom on a Mission finalist
“When you’re dealt lemons make lemonade!” Thirty-four years ago when my youngest son Michael was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 3 ½ months, this phrase became my family’s mantra. I had never smoked, drank or used drugs. How does a baby get cancer?
I cofounded Ocean of Love in October 1988 to help be the lifeline financially and emotionally for Ocean County, NJ childhood cancer families. More and more children were being diagnosed from Toms River. I tried for years to bring this to the attention of the NJ State Department of Health to no avail. It became national news after a newspaper article revealed a report documenting the high rate of childhood cancer in Toms River, March 1996. We had two major Superfund sites in our town: Ciba Geigy chemical company and Reich Farm. Chemicals from Dow Chemical were illegally dumped on the farm and seeped into our water table and drinking water supply. Ciba used to burn its chemicals and dump them into landfills, the river, and the ocean via a pipeline.
I was appointed Chairwoman of the Citizen’s Action Committee. Since then my life has been dedicated to helping the children with cancer and also finding and eliminating the causes such as radium 224, which was detected above acceptable regulation limits in Toms River. Radiologicals that exceed standards have been associated with bone cancer in adolescents and leukemia in adults. Antiquated laws kept radium 224 from being detected in our country. Our government only tests for 87 chemicals. We had over 650 unregulated chemicals in our water producing toxic chemical lemonade.
We now have the most closely watched and tested water system in the country. We’ve put protective filtration systems on our wells, removed contaminated wells from our water supply, and United Water Company has become proactive. They report to my committee monthly and address a possible problem before it happens. But we don’t test for more chemicals.
The late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg spent his career in Congress trying to pass a law to check for all contaminants that could be in your drinking water from contaminated sites down gradient of them. It is so sad that he died before he could do it.
NJ Cancer Registry has been improved with new laws passed in New Jersey, but is still not perfect. The health effects of potentiate (the process when one chemical mixes with another and makes it more potent) and synergistic (when chemicals mix and form new and unknown chemicals) are still not known. The country needs to improve its surveillance to detect cancer clusters early and eliminate the cause if possible. We have seen a dramatic decrease in numbers in our town.
We must be aware of toxic sites in our community. Do the toxic sites impact our water system? Did you know that contaminants enter your body through steam from showers quicker than ingestion?
Our government is under staffed and under regulated. Do your homework.
We made our community safer. You can too.
Know an amazing mom who is making a difference? Nominate her to be one of our Mom on a Mission® finalists! Learn more about Healthy Child Healthy World’s 2013 Mom on a Mission campaign by visiting Healthychild.org/mission. A special thank you to our sponsors Ology and Unreal.