They didn’t find any lead hazards inside the house, but they did find some on the perimeter, in two spots.
1) The threshold of our front door. I kind of suspected there might be lead paint dust there. Back when ACORN did lead abatement on our house, they forgot the strip of paint right inside our doorframe. It’s only about 2 1/2″ wide. That pain is presumably flaking and getting dust on the threshold. Unfortunately the threshold is an area which Xy has not routinely included when she mops the house. (Rest assured I mopped it yesterday.) As I mentioned, they didn’t find hazardous levels inside the house itself, but we only had them check a few places. In retrospect I wish we’d done a couple more swabs upstairs. Lead dust could be tracked in from the threshold into the house.
2) The soil in our backyard. I don’t think ACORN ever tested this. We always suspected this soil might be contaminated, which is why we don’t grow any vegetables there — ornamental plants only. Note that we don’t have an actual yard, just a concrete slab. All the soil is in containers, large raised beds that were there before we bought the house and spent time under water in the flood of ’05. Persephone doesn’t play in the containers, of course. However, some of the containers are rather porous, and dirt gets out from them onto the slab. How much? The sample from our slab indicates an amount that is above HUD standards for outdoors — but below HUD standards for indoors.
3) That’s plenty to chew on, but here’s a little more. I ordered some LeadCheck Swabs, a do-it-yourself method. I’ve heard these can give false negatives, so I take them with a grain of salt. I checked a few items around the house. I checked the paint around the door, which I know to be lead-based, and sure enough, it gave a positive result. I had heard bathtubs can be a source of lead contamination, especially old clawfoot tubs such as the one we have (and love) so I decided to give it the test. The swab seemed to come away negative — but when I came back a half an hour later I noticed the area I’d rubbed was pink and red. (That means lead.) Yikes!
So… what to do? Dr. Rodgers tells me there’s no “magic bullet” in a house with lead paint. All you can do is clean up what you find and recheck the blood. If the blood lead level doesn’t go down, then you keep looking.
According to HUD priorities you have to attack peeling lead paint, lead on doors and windows (which make dust through friction), lead dust on floors and window sills and lead soil.
So I am devising a plan of attack.
First the easy stuff: Until further notice: No more playing out back, and no more baths in the tub. We may ultimately decide these are not big risks after all, but for now we won’t take chances.
Next the mundane stuff: We are increasing the frequency of mopping. We are washing hands more often. We are trying to remember to take our shoes off when we enter the house, but this is tough because we have — no kidding — six doors to get in and out of the house. Mainly we use only two, but my shoes always seem to be by the other door.
Then there’s the more difficult task of actually doing something to mitigate the hazards. Do I tackle the paint around the door myself? Hire a pro? Or just clean the bejeezus out of the threshold? A little more research is required.
As for our raised beds, we could perhaps seal them tighter. I have some ideas that involve a bit of brick-laying and concrete patching. I might try to organize a party for that some weekend coming up, see if I can get any friends to work for beer.
Of course, we are also thinking about selling the house, and not just because of the lead hazards. That’s complicated. Further ruminations forthcoming.
And finally: I am taking the girl to another pediatrician at the end of this week for a second opinion — another capillary (pinprick) screening. I decided to pursue this after Kent shared a link indicating the rate of false positives for such tests may be much higher than I expected. (Like, as high as 73%.) Wouldn’t it be nice if this all turned out to be a big mistake? Now that we have confirmed lead hazards around our home, that seems a bit much to hope for. Still, in a couple weeks we will have another number to ponder.