Today we had our house tested for lead again. The results will be available next week. And so we wait.
I’ve been learning a lot about lead poisoning. Back in the 70s some 17 million American kids had it; these days that number is down to around 350 thousand.
I still can’t believe we’re in that number.
Some people think of this as a “disease of poverty,” but that’s somewhat misleading. Poor people are more likely to live in old houses with lead-based paint. But what with gentrification and the return of middle class folks to the inner city, there’s more people of various incomes levels living in such old houses. And there’s a strong correlation between living in an old house and lead poisoning in children.
The symptoms of brain damage and learning disability are really not testable or noticeable until a child reaches six years of age. That diminishes whatever solace I might have taken in our daughter’s lack of symptoms. So for now we can only work to eliminate further contamination, give her a good diet, monitor her blood levels, and hope. Even if we moved to Utah immediately, even if we see nothing but decreasing lead levels in her blood tests, we still won’t know the damage for at least four and a half years.
That seems like a long time to wait. And even then we may not see the full picture right away.
A couple people asked me about the blood test. I believe these are simply routine tests administered to most children on the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control. they recommend a test at 12 months and another at 24 months. We were supposed to have her test five months ago, but that didn’t happen through a series of rather infuriating screw-ups at the doctor’s office. I can only wonder what we’d have found if she’d been tested on schedule.
I have talked to a couple of experts in the field — Dr. Howard Mielke and Dr. Andrew Rodgers — both of whom used to work here at the University. When I asked for a recommendation on someone for testing, Dr. Mielke said he’d like to do it himself, but unfortunately he has no funding at present. Through a separate channel I got in touch with Dr. Rodgers who is now the Lead Risk Assessor for the City of New Orleans. It seems that child lead levels are reported to the city, and if our girl had scored a couple micrograms higher, a visit from Dr. Rodgers would have been mandated. As it is, I hired him to come out as a private contractor. I met him at our house this morning, and as mentioned we are now waiting for the test results.
Both Dr. Mielke and Dr. Rodgers were concerned but also felt that our daughter’s lead levels may be “manageable.” That’s not truly comforting, though, when I consider that they have seen such a broad range of severe cases.
We have switched to Kentwood water rather than tap, just in case.
In other news: A portable toilet has showed up in front of Craig’s old house next door. That’s good news indicating work will begin soon. Of course I’m worried they may create more lead paint dust… but in the meantime I am getting a much-needed laugh from the name of the toilet service: Doodie Calls, Inc.