People say that pictures are worth a thousand words, and I believe that this statement heavily applies to a photo of Ringwood resident Mickey Van Dunk, taken by Thomas E. Franklin and published in The Record’s “Toxic Legacy” series. In the photo, Dunk stares at the camera with a serious, blank face that is almost devoid of any emotion, with a rare disease called hidradenitis suppurativa displayed prominently on his face. The current state of his disease is a result, he feels, of the millions of gallons of paint sludge dumped by Ford that contaminated his neighborhood in Ringwood, NJ. He’s had 17 different surgeries that have removed large amounts of his skin since he was a teenager, and he then refused to undergo any more surgery. He’s even had multiple suicidal incidents where he has come close to ending his own life.
This disease is genetic in Dunk’s family in certain aspects, but his state is not entirely the fault of his family’s history. For starters, exposure to pollutants is sure to make the effects of the disease a lot worse. This is evidenced by the fact that Dunk’s Harvard-trained surgeon, Dr. Parmad Ganchi, claims that he has one of the absolute worse cases of the disease that he has ever seen. The fact that hidradenitis suppurativa has reached Dunk’s face is a rarity in itself, as the disease typically never reaches that area of a person’s body. Despite the fact that no health study has been conducted, Dunk’s disease seems to be influenced by the sludge dump instigated by Ford.
Not only is this deadly disease ruining his health, but its also killing all of his dreams and aspirations. Dunk often dreams about hanging outdoors like he used to before he was sick, engaging in activities like ice fishing and walking through water. He longs for the days where he could drive backhoes and dump trucks at construction sites, like his last job 12 years ago. Dunk even dreams of having boys with his wife, but unfortunately none of this is feasible. His current state prevents him from enjoying himself or working the job that he loves. He also tried to have kids with his wife, Linda, but unfortunately Dunk is now sterile. Not only that, but Dunk had to learn how to undress in the dark in order to make sure that he doesn’t scare her at night. Clearly, a life has been tragically ruined, he feels, due to Ford’s lack of care for the environment.
Keep in mind that this is only one person’s life that was drastically altered by this dump. In reality, the entire area of Ringwood where the dumping took place has been devastated by this disaster. Dunk’s story illustrates the dangers of Ford’s toxic legacy. One look at his photograph shows viewers how bad the damage to the area has been, and exhibits the harmful effects that such contamination can have on human beings. Hopefully, people will be able to look at Dunk’s face and be inspired to properly take care of the environment in the future. I know I have, as his story has inspired me to become more aware of environmental issues. Ford’s actions are inexcusable, and action must be taken to prevent things like this from happening in the future.