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Lead Poisoning

Despite our efforts, despite testing our water, despite an extensive lead abatement program conducted on our house by ACORN, we got word yesterday afternoon that our little 17-month-old girl has a high level of lead contamination.

How high? BLLs > 13 µg/dL. Translation: blood lead level greater than 13 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Is that a lot? Well, the bad thing about lead is that there’s really no safe level. She doesn’t have to be rushed to the hospital for chelation. But it’s still not good. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, permanent damage to the central nervous system, even death.

Needless to say we are very upset. There are a thousand things that can happen to an infant child, but this was the one thing that I focused on and tried to avoid. I was aware of the danger, and still we have this threat to our baby’s health.

In old urban neighborhoods (like Mid-City New Orleans) we need to be especially vigilant because of the prevalence of lead-based paint on many of our historic buildings. Of course, I thought we were being vigilant. That’s what makes this doubly frustrating. Indeed, it’s difficult to type this without using expletives.

I understand it’s not so much the exact level of lead in the system that is the primary concern. Rather, it’s the symptoms associated with lead poisoning. Fortunately we haven’t seen signs of any of these symptoms. That’s the one tiny little bright spot here.

Right now I believe there is only one course of action: Eliminate the source of the lead contamination, give her a balanced diet (with an emphasis on calcium, iron, and vitamin C), and then re-test later. But before we can eliminate the lead, we have to identify where it is coming from. The primary suspect remains lead-paint dust in and around our house. As mentioned previously, we had work done on our house by ACORN, but it may not have been sufficient. So now we are looking for a reputable commercial service that can test our house. I’ve got some leads which I will be pursuing vigorously.

Published inEcologyFamilyOur House


  1. Oh no…hope everything is ok with Persephone! I remember Stacey ( had a lead problem at her old apt. The downstairs tenants dog died and the child had lead poisoning. I just asked her about it, it was in the ground from having the apt scraped and re-painted.

    Good luck with resolving this problem!

  2. wow.

    i am so sorry to hear this.

    Could it be that you have lead water pipes coming into the house and/or in your neighborhood and it is leaching into your drinking/cooking water?

    sending good thoughts….

  3. Peris Peris

    Yes, daycare. See if you can find other kids there a similar amount of time that have been tested, or see if they can get tested. Compare their levels.

    Also compare kids in the neighborhood, if possible. May not be the house, but the street, block, etc. Do you keep the windows open, and are you downwind of any flaking/peeling painted buildings?

    To kids absorb faster, in general? If not, check the adults involved, too.

    What’s the mean level in NOLA, Mid-City, etc?

  4. B.
    No pun intended I am sure that you have leads on the lead.

    You could start her on an herbal detox program. For a child that small a 1/4 of the adult dose would be appropriate. Assuming she is about 12 kg. or bigger.

    Can’t blame yourself. That is like blaming myself for Isa’s cancer. Can’t be done, can only manage the present.

    May not be paint, but the pipes.

    Good luck.

  5. Anna Anna

    I am sad to hear this. From a consultant’s perspective….
    You need to find the source. You and Xy should get tested to see if ya’lls levels are high. If so, you know its the house.

    It could be from the lead dust or from the water pipes. I know that the girls like to be out in the pool, so i would guess it may be from paint dust on the patio.

    The other probable sources would be old furniture ( i know P has a new bedroom set, so that seems unlikely) or, dare i say it, toys from China.
    In the last 2 years China continues to export lead laden products. Does P have any new bright toys that she has been chewing on?

    Has P been going to daycare over the summer? that would be my next guess. Please call if you need to do any sampling, i’d be happy to help.

    The other thing you could do is to sue ACORN! how dare they do a half ass job and let the dust scatter all over! did they use wet methods when they were sanding?

    Cheers Editor B!

  6. Biljana Biljana

    I am so sorry to hear this Bart. I know that Mark Whitaker’s son had that also. E-mail him asap. They moved from the house they were renting. I know you own…Sorry. How does one test a child for this? Perhaps we need to test Petar… We’ll be back in NO soon, still in Italy…take care. We are thinking of you.

  7. Ed Ed

    That’s awful. I realized in retrospect that _I_ was cursing under my breath as I read this.

  8. Oh, that’s not good at all, guys. Sorry to hear it. Please get yourselves tested and check those pipes. Thinking of you and little PJ!

  9. Therese Therese

    I am so sorry to hear about P. Do consider the daycare. A few years back when I was teaching at Audubon, the whole school was relocated for a few months because of high levels of lead in the soil around the school.

  10. Anne Anne

    I’m really sorry to hear about Persephone. I have known several small children with high lead levels who got better, and I am sure P. will be in that number as you take such care with her. Good wishes to all of you.

    One of the kids I know got lead poisoning from sucking on toys imported from China. (He was about 1 at the time). His mother checked some lists on the internet to remove the primary offenders, and had some of the others tested. He’s 3 now and is doing great, but he’s tested for lead levels twice a year, I think.

  11. […] and people who might have contaminated it.  You bought the mess, you pay for it…and boy, can you pay in ways you never imagined.:Despite our efforts, despite testing our water, despite an […]

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