Lead poisoning has impacted a vast number of people across the United States in the past decade alone. But regardless of the scale of the problem, each case has a story behind it.
Each of those numbers is a person who has a family, friends, hopes, and dreams. Lead poisoning can ruin lives, destroy people’s health and prevent them from having the life that they always wanted.
This story is about Jessica Thompson, a mother, and wife from Oklahoma City, who was enjoying her first home and child with her husband. But after 6-months they noticed that their daughter, Olivia, wasn’t gaining as much weight as the doctor told them to expect.
As a response to this, Thompson decided to take her child to see the doctor so that they could assess her health and ensure that nothing was wrong.
The Doctor Knew that Something was Wrong
“The doctor knew I lived in an older area and he was kind of concerned because she was so young and so he went and had her blood tested,” Thompson said.
Her doctor was suspicious that the child could have lead poisoning, having known that old houses in the area had used lead extensively in the paint. The doctor was right, and when the blood results came back, they shocked even the medical professionals.
“That night the doctor called me and said you need to take her to the ER and have her tested because the levels came back so high, she could have been dead type thing,” Thompson said.
Upon getting to the hospital the staff there took another blood sample from her daughter, testing it again for the lead to ensure that the results were accurate. The hospital lab results came back slightly lower than what the local doctor’s office had reported, but it was still twice the reasonable level.
Her New House Had Harmed Her Baby
Thompson soon recognized that the most likely sauce of exposure was from inside their brand new home, the first one they had purchased as a family.
“I was kind of devastated when I found out. Because I thought okay… I don’t even know where to start,” Thompson said.
Upon leaving the hospital, she decided to test their home to find out if it was the cause of the problems and if so would be done about it. The results came back positive, the lead based paint was used extensively, and there was exposure from their window sills and baseboards.
Their home was build in the 1920’s, far before the use of lead paint was banned in 1978. While much of the paint had been removed, some of the lead dust remained in high enough quantities to cause harm to her new baby.
“So I painted over it for now, but ultimately I just want to get it out of my house, so we’re going to replace all the baseboard and trim. But it’s safer now because it says if you paint over the lead, you encapsulate it,” Thompson said.
The Child Made a Full Recovery, Others Aren’t So Lucky
Due to the fast actions of Thompson, her baby was able to make a full recovery. Olivia didn’t suffer any developmental delays and is unlikely to have learning difficulties. Many families aren’t so lucky.
Lead exposure in the early years of a child’s life can have a significant impact on the long term, not just on their physical health but also their IQ and life prospects.
A study out of New Zealand found that even five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood could cause a lower adult IQ, impaired memory, and lower socioeconomic prospects. The risk of lead paint, but also the improper cleanup and removal is severe.
“I would say definitely as a homeowner, and even a renter, do due diligence in finding out if there is lead,” Thompson said.
Realtors have a legal responsibility in many states to inform you about the use of lead-based paints in the home, but they don’t have to tell you about lead water pipes in the building. Research has shown these can be equally impactful, which is why it’s always worth asking the question and looking into possible solutions for when a problem occurs.