On August 18, 1984, Courtney Gilmour was born in Sarnia, Ontario. Her right arm ends just above the wrist, and her left arm ends immediately below the elbow. She has one fully functional leg; her other leg ends mid femur. She uses a prosthetic to assist in walking. To complete trivial and complex tasks, she uses only the “nubs” at the end of her arms. Courtney’s parents recall her personal independence and mental and physical perseverance from an early age.

Today, Courtney is a successful writer for several online publications and a sketch writer for the famous comedy school Second City. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Sarnia, a town of approximately 70,000 people, is also known as Chemical Valley because of the 60+ facilities that comprise 40 per cent of Canada’s petrochemical industry. The amount of pollution generated throughout the region has given Sarnia the distinction of “the dirtiest place in Canada.” During her nine-month pregnancy, Courtney’s mother drove daily through Chemical Valley.

Shortly after Courtney’s birth, three geneticists visited her mother to determine if the birth defects were genetically linked. After analyzing the family’s blood, hair, etc., each geneticist independently concluded consistent exposure to pollutants during pregnancy led to Courtney’s birth defects. Courtney’s parents accepted the findings and raised their child to develop into a normal, healthy girl.

How many other Sarnia residents welcomed a child with abnormal conditions? How have the disabled faired throughout life? How many people, exposed to pollutants every day, have developed abnormalities or become ill?

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