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.