03 December 2018

Poisoned by mussel shells

As reported in Toronto Life:
In 1998, I finished a sculpture of Lilith—the first woman, according to Jewish folklore—made from eggshells. I began using blue mussel shells to create her counterpart: Adam, the first man... I spent up to 12 hours a day grinding and sanding the shells to fit into the shape of Adam’s body...

After a few months working on Adam, I began to feel unwell. I was agitated all of the time. I had constant headaches, and I vomited often, sometimes a few times a day... After a few hours of grinding mussel shells, I would become immobilized. My muscles ached. My hands would cramp when I held my tools...

One day in 2013, I cleaned out my ventilation system, which had trapped years of fine dust. As I swept out the particles, I suddenly felt weak and unable to stand. For the next week, I lay in bed, my mind in a fog. I couldn’t string full sentences together, and my speech was slurred. My whole body was in excruciating, paralyzing pain—my neck, abdomen, arms—and I had suddenly lost all hearing in my left ear...

In 2015, I was diagnosed with heavy-metal poisoning. Doctors found high levels of arsenic and lead in my blood, the result of chronic exposure. The water where the mussels grew was likely contaminated from industrial waste, and the mussel shells I’d been working with for decades were toxic.
You learn something every day.

3 comments:

  1. Just imagine the people who were eating those mussels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My understanding is that the heavy metals had accumulated in the shells, not in the meat.

      Delete

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