Old Houses, Lead and Young Kids - What should we do?

lcdc99June 18, 2010

We're looking for some feedback about our situation.

We live in an historic home, have very young children and have been dealing with lead issues for both of them (despite extensive testing we're not really sure exactly what the source is - windows are all original and this seems to be the main concern). We love our home, thought we would live here for a very long time, approached everything up to this point that way and had many plans to continue restorations.

However, when our second child's levels were double what our first child's were, we came to a screeching halt and put plans on hold. We put it up for sale and started to look for a different home.

We now have a written offer on our home and have another home that we've been negotiating on (10 year old home that is what I would call a "reproduction victorian" - has things our home doesn't have like a masterbath, attached garage, safe quiet neighborhood but the layout is not what we desire and we haven't found anything else that would be a better fit).

All signs point to us moving on and everything is falling into place. Except that we are having a difficult time seeing ourselves living somewhere else. It would be a big change in who we have become and of course it's different and unknown. The few people we talk to are encouraging us to move on mainly because of the lead issue. This is our biggest concern as well. Others are shocked and think we're crazy for selling our property.

Is there any way we can continue to live in the historic home with peace of mind?

If not, how do we readjust our purist, old home love to accept the new home?

Is there anyone who's been in this situation and moved or figured out a way to make their home safe?

Any other feedback would be appreciated.

This has been very emotional for us in so many ways.


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It really boils down to money. If you can afford to hire professional, certified and reputable lead-removal people, then they can concentrate on all the windows (or any that there's ANY chance of the kids being near). Maybe doors and cupboards too. If the outside is a new paint job you should be fine but you want to dig - can't remember - I think a few feet down and then a few feet out away from your house because lead falls most at the foot of the house and around there. And the garage. Kids play in the yard so those areas needs to be clear of old paint chips. The main rule is any moving parts.

Also, you can have areas tested beforehand to make sure you know what you're dealing with. The general rule is anything that moves or will be played around more than other areas. E.g. in their bedroom or play room I might have other areas done too that they might pick at - but maybe that's overkill.

I'm so sorry your second child's levels were so high! :( How scary - you've convinced me to get my children tested. My first child was fine (same house) but who knows - it's time I tested the other two!

You can also call the lead line in your area. Google lead line and the name of your state and something will pop up. They have tons of info for you.

Good luck! I hate to see you leave a beautiful, otherwise well-made house for a new one lacking the charm/personality/history!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Sorry - I wasn't clear. At one point in time I was told that to play it safe I should dig down a couple of feet and REMOVE that dirt and replace with dirt that didn't come from near any buildings, which is what I did in a couple of places that I wanted to plant veggies. Also in an area where a lot of lead paint chips had been falling for years and years, between the garages.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 1:26PM
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This is going to sound off the wall, but it flashed through my mind. Was your first child re-tested to see if his/her lead levels were also climbing? I'm trying to think why your second child's tested higher, unless child two is putting things in mouth. Lead is cumulative the way I understand it. Your first child has lived there longer than child two so you'd think child #1s level would also be climbing.

Have you definately confirmed the lead issue is actually in your home? There are many ways children get exposed to lead including drinking water contaminated by lead in plumbing, imported toys, old playground equipment at parks and schools, eating produce grown in soil contaminated with lead from gasoline or industy. Have you had professional tests on the house to determine risk, pinpoint locaton? Even if you rule out lead remediation this question will come up when you try to sell your home when you sign a disclosure. Somebody will want it tested.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 2:28PM
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I appreciate everyone's thoughts and questions. Some responses to fill in the pieces:

Daughter's levels: 7, 4, 4, 0 - she's 5 and we've had a test in the past 6 months (we did homeopathic drops with her and this seemed to positively impact the levels)
Son's levels: 13.9, 10.1, 8 - he's 20 months (we're doing homeopathic drops and an oral chelation product, clay baths and boosting vitamins and minerals).

Our son's levels are decreasing which is positive.

We renovated our kitchen with a complete gutting when our daughter was 2 (her level was at 4 at the time and they didn't change). However, I had a pregancy loss in the middle of the renovations. Our midwife wonders if our miscarriage and son's levels are due to lead being passed to him during pregnancy. This certainly is a possibility.

We've had the health department do dust swipes and XRF testing throughout our home. When I contact abatement specilists I am overwhelmed at the thought of replacing our 50-70 windows. I'm discouraged that there are no resources that I am aware of at this point to assist a well meaning, successful family who wants to raise healthy children, restore an historic property, be connected to the city/community, and save gas by walking places. Our other home would take us away from this to a subdivision.

The people who want to buy our home don't have young children and we have disclosed all the lead documentation we have.

Yes, this is our challenge as was stated above: "I hate to see you leave a beautiful, otherwise well-made house for a new one lacking the charm/personality/history!"

Without a doubt our health is more important than where we live and I don't want to have any regrets either way.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 4:30PM
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You still have not indicated were the lead is in the house.

Something has to be grinding it up to allow easy ingestion.

Plain lead paint on surfaces can simply be covered with a new layer pf pint to encapsulate it.

Problems can occur on window sashes that have had the tracks painted in a misguided attempt to make them look better.
You can still paint over the tracks again but run the risk of having the new paint scratched off by the movement of the sash.
Outside of carefully spot stripping of the rub areas there are simply not a lot of good solutions if the lead paint is being ground up by the movement of window sashes.

Making sure the lead is coming from inside the house is really needed.

As you probably have realized, replacing the windows is not going to help if they are not the source of the lead.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 5:06PM
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Was your first child born while living in this house? If not, then I would think the differences between lead concentrations may stem from something in the house--all other things being equal.

I asked my DH if there could be a problem with lead water pipes. He said they stopped using lead pipes about 150 years ago. In Boston and NYC, the pipes running from the streets into the houses were lead, and they could be bent quite easily. It was phased out to copper and galvanized iron because the lead was MORE EXPENSIVE, not because of the hazard!

He also said that the water line going INTO your house has PROBABLE been replaced, but the possibility remains that it was only replaced up to the point where it reached your foundation. To check if the potable water lines for the house are all safe and not lead, check in your basement for the spot where the line hooks up to your interior water lines. He said, if it is lead, it will be soft, you can easily score it with a knife blade, and the lead will yield a silvery mark on it. The iron would be very hard and not easily marked.

Naturally if you discover the pipe has lead content, it should be replaced immediately.

It was his opinion that the two main areas of an old home which could yield high lead levels would be the exterior paint (lead was used to achieve a high gloss)and then the water pipes. The sewage lines were also lead for a long time, but I doubt that the child would be exposed to the sewage. Although if you have a septic system in the ground under your child's playyard, I'd test the soil there too.

I hope you can find the source of your child's high lead concentrations, and why it should be such a discrepancy between two children of the same household. If your younger one goes to a nursery school, all the children there would likely have the same kind of results, I'd think. And finding out later on that it was something besides the home exposure causeing his health issues, after you've moved elsewhere, would be a bitter pill. I do hope you pursue the matter to the very end, and satisfy yourselves that you are choosing the right option.

Please post back with what you learn.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 5:56PM
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It was deemed that the biggest concern in the home was the windows. They stated that the other painted or wallpapered surfaces should not be as much as a concern as long as the painted surface is intact, not chipping, pealing, cracking or becoming chalky. Repainting or replacement was recommended. Also, windows that are not used can be sealed shut with a calk or silicone making them more resistant to spreading lead dust. They noted that the home was very clean and had almost no signs of visible dust yet the dust wipe samples still picked up lead dust at almost half of the critical value. Recommended to keep up the cleaning and repaint or replace as soon as possible. The attic floor and steps also tested positive for lead

We have been very aware of the windows and haven't opened them for a very long time. We had soil tested and nothing showed up there. We have a great deal of shellaced wood and nothing supposedly there.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 6:03PM
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I forgot to ask, did you test the lead levels for you and your husband? Are your lead concentration levels higher than the general population?

How about your water heater? If there is a cross contamination of a steam heat system and the fresh water supply, I'd also think everyone in the household would have a lead problem. Do you drink the tap water, or cook with it?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 6:06PM
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A response about the water and other questions that people have mentioned:

Water lines shouldn't be an issue (upgraded in 80s and then again in last 5 years) but we have a kit that we can use to test them tomorrow morning. I did notice in the last information from our city water supply that there are small traces of lots of things including metals and lead in our water supply. Is this typical?

My husband did have elevated lead according to our last visit with the homeopath. I had a blood test in December and my levels were 0 and 0 in the past with the homeopath.

I have read that men/boys absorb lead more easily that women/girls. I have no idea why this would be and there was no explanation given.

Both of our kids were born and raised here with no concerns of other places that they frequently go.

Our exterior was changed in the 80s and the original siding gone. The window trim is wrapped in aluminum.

As you can imagine I've also combed through the astonishing list of items containing lead. Nothing raised a red flag.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 6:53PM
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I just got off the phone with a person inquiring about our home. She said the following things to me...

"Is the price correct - sounds way too low?"
"You will never live in another house like that again."
"It would break my heart to leave it."

When I told her that we were staying in the area and not relocating she encouraged me to think twice about what we were doing. I jokingly asked if she was a messenger from God. Ultimately, she's not interested and yes we're still confused. She did provide some humor and I am very grateful for all the people I've met and talked to on our journey with this old house.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 11:24PM
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My hubby is a builder new regulations are that you go for classes on dealing with lead or face huge fines,He went this week,thats a serious,serious matter,Didnt know it was that bad.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 11:39PM
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Is there any way you could live somewhere else while still owning this house? Renting yourselves, renting out the house... while you deal with the lead problem?

Or for a while to see if your lead levels go down?

Also, is all the testing you're having done in the hands of a homeopath? I'm not arguing against homeopathy, and in fact don't know if you would be having them done at a standard blood lab, but are you sure the test results are scientifically legitimate?

Have you looked carefully at all the toys the kids use, all the dishes you have...?

I do think if I were you I would do something to get the kids out of the house at least for a while, but would try to find a solution that did not involve selling the house. Although I have to say that it is quite possible that non-purism might be a better mindset for kids to grow up with :-)


    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 10:35PM
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I think they found lead(& cadmium) in kids jewelry, do they have earrings, wear a ring, like to play house & wear jewelry. My DD had some of her kids toys tested about 6 yrs ago & she cleaned out a lot of their toys, some good brands too as they had lead in them. As the kids have gotten older I buy clothes & not toys. Their allergies have gotten better & don't know if DD had lead counts but probably since she checked toys for lead. I think you could google "lead in toys"& might turn up something, don't think just because they might have been "handed down" that they are "lead free" Do kids give dog or cat "toys" LIKE BALLS OR CHEW TOYS? Sorry got stuck on caps. GF had dog start vomiting after few minutes play with chew toy from 99 cent store. Vet tested it & it had something dangerous in it. I think the hen house is guarded by the fox these days as far as keeping our products safe. Hope you get an answer. Oh, some old pencils have lead in them if your kids chew on them,do you use products like graphite, might have lead in it.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 1:00AM
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I had the same thought about the naturopath. If he/she did the testing, re-test elsewhere. Not meaning to be offensive - and I've used homeopathic medicines too - but you need to put your opinions and feelings about them aside and just double-check to be sure.

What have you done about the attic and stairs?

What I'm hearing really loudly is that aside from this lead problem (serious as that is), you love your house and neighborhood and don't want to leave. This is so very clear. Also, if the price on your house is that low, that makes it all the worse. Just fix the problem and sell the house that way if you really feel you should leave! That way you can advertise the lead-removal you've had done and also that all other tests came back fine so you won't lose so much $ on the house. You'll get your money back from the cost of lead-removal just by getting so much for your house! You already know the outside is safe and that's the most expensive part isn't it?

You know it's the windows, they told you so. And you don't yet know if it's in the water. Test the water/plumbing, then you're done unless you've forgotten some important part to test. You're so lucky the outside is taken care of! :)

Thoughts about your not selling:

Are you able to afford to take care of the window problem on the windows that you would like to have opened, at least? I would not replace windows on old houses w/ vinyl windows. So you'd want to either have the paint professionally removed safely or else replace the ones you want to open w/ wood (but higher efficiency) windows. The thing is, if you replace windows, that won't take of what's painted w/ lead paint that isn't removable (e.g. where the sashes are and the inner sill area)...so you might find out what the difference in price is between removing ALL the lead paint everywhere in those areas and replacing the actual windows themselves, and the price of removing all that paint in those areas and just going ahead and also removing the lead off the old windows themselves and re-using. See what I mean? What's the price-difference per window or per house (apples to apples is my point)?

How many windows do you want to open, for now, minimum but realistically? My youngest two children share a bedroom and when I was pregnant (they're twins) I had their bedroom windows replaced with good-quality wood windows. However the insides of the windows - the non-removable areas - are still painted w/ what may have lead. I need to get all our windows tested for crying out loud. So my point is that I rarely open their windows due to that fear and when I do, I wipe them down w/ TSP (not good enough but is something, I tell myself) so at least there's no lead paints/flakes/dust. But now that they're out of their cribs, one of their heads is right under that window that we've opened in the past and now I REALLY don't want to open it until I do something more, at least at that bottom exposed area.

Whether we replace or remove paint, there are two smaller living room windows (on either side of the fireplace), that we often open during the warm months, and though less often: an office window; two kitchen windows I've never been able to open but would love to; and three bedroom windows at least. That's not all the windows I'd like to open but enough.

I've never priced replacing them nor having the paint removed but if it's just completely out of our budget then I would make sure they couldn't be opened by a child (but if there's a fire, there's a way out) and then would start ONE WINDOW AT A TIME w/ most important window, and pay to have that window completely removed of paint with whichever method is the least expensive (new windows or removing paint on old, + the removal of all the paint everywhere else). Here's an important note: it's probably more costly to do the non-removable part because the work is done on-site. I wonder if you or your husband could take a class and learn how to remove it yourself, safely, using the proper mask and gloves and taping up plastic around yourself, etc. You can buy paint-removing goop meant for leaded paint removal and let it sit there for however long it takes while your family is out of town or while one of you takes the kids out of town (but the windows would be removed at that time) and then it would all come off very easily after that. It would be very easy to work w/ if the windows were gone you know?

Would I sell MY old house? No - not if I was told the source was the windows and if I had everything else tested and it came out fine. Because I'd know it was a problem that could be tackled and that the house (and investment) were worth saving. But I would sell it if I thought the problem couldn't be dealt with? Absolutely.

Here's your homework: ;)

1. Test the plumbing/water and any other areas you're suspicious of if you haven't already.

2. Get quotes on new windows and on removing lead from just windows and on removing lead from all the non-removable window area parts. That's 3 quotes. Find out if you can afford this.

Ugh - sorry for writing so much. Out of time or maybe I'd go shorten it a bit - haha!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 4:10PM
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When we've replaced windows, we've replaced the jamb as well as the sash - meaning the whole box around the window as well as the window itself. Just saying, for both Theresse and the OP, if you're going to replace the window, you might as well solve the problem!


    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 4:30PM
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Yes Karin - that's the word I was looking for - jamb! And you made your point so concisely - unlike Ms. Verbosity here - hee hee!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 4:33PM
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Oh I SEE WHAT YOU'RE SAYING Karin! You're saying they can just remove the jamb altogether? That's probably a whole lot cheaper than removing the paint, eh?! The only benefit I see of keeping the old wood is if it's much older-growth and much more hardened from age AND if part of the jamb is on the outside, exposed to wood (I can't picture whether a jamb is the entire space including what's exposed on the outside too or if it's totally unexposed to the outside).

Can you give us any idea of the cost of ANY aspect of this? Just a ball park?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 4:37PM
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I'm a pediatrician living in a 120 year old house. I moved in here with three young kids knowing that the child who lived here before had had a lead level in the 20s. The previous owners (also a pediatrician, BTW) replaced windows in the kids' rooms, but it was thought that the main exposure was during a remodel. I tested my kids' lead levels every few months when we first moved in and they were fine, then after some remodeling...still fine . We've just started a kitchen remodel and are following the new lead abatement guidelines-that will give me piece of mind for any grandchildren or for resale.
If it gives you any reassurance, there are lots of docs who don't blink at a level If you love your house you can make this work. If this scare has made it too spooky to stay,then there you go!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 9:17PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

If you love your house you can make this work. If this scare has made it too spooky to stay,then there you go!

Exactly! Well said.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 4:34AM
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I'm reading this thread and keep waiting to read what (to me) is the obvious answer. If you were to post your original post on every other forum on Gardenweb, I bet the responses would universally be the same as what I am about to write:

Are you insane? For crying out loud, your child's health is at stake! Move out of that house!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 8:30AM
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what graywings said.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 1:22PM
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What graywings and Sylvia just said - and I did in another forum.

But to each his own. I'm an MD (not a pediatrician) and if my child had a level of 1 and I lived in an old house - I'd be gone so quickly, his paci would fling out of his mouth and I'd be across town before it hit the ground.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 5:43PM
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Honestly though, we all court risks of all kinds for our children - they're just not all measurable like lead is. So I think it's a bit holier than thou to say, flee with all haste the one threat to your children that you can see and measure, possibly at the expense of your mental health and satisfaction with your life, thus reducing your ability to be a good parent.

You'd probably go out and have a car accident in your haste to get across town, and that house would probably have asbestos in it that hasn't been disclosed. Or something else.

Anyone around here ever check the bacterial content of their food? Serve their kids one-too-many-days old leftovers or chicken cooked four degrees too cold for real safety? Barbeque much, with those yummy cancer-causing deposits on the meat? Food containing red dye or yellow dye whatever it is that's cancer-causing? Live near power lines, or a factory that emits some chemical? How about the risk of drug addiction or drinking/driving in your kids' high school environment - can you measure that? Most of us know when it's there but we leave our kids in proximity to it. And hey, about the plastic in that pacifier, not to mention the psychic cost of having to suck on that instead of nursing? Take your kids to a day care; any idea what, say, the water lines into the building bring?

Also, you cannot prevent other people with small children living in this house in the future, perhaps with parents who don't care or don't check their children's levels. So it seems very responsible to me to stay the course and seek to fix the problem, if your intent is to restore the house so another series of generations of children can grow up in it. But as I said above, I would look into living out for a while or otherwise encapsulating the problem, say, putting latex sealer around the windows you don't open and fully replacing - jamb included - the ones you do want to open.

Theresse - a replacement including jamb is definitely more expensive but as there are so many other sources of cost, I won't give numbers. But it's a lot more satisfying to do it this way, and I guess new mouldings, in and out, might also be indicated for lead avoidance.

Just heading out to strip some leaded paint off an old door - and then going to come in to cook dinner. Life is full of risks, not always measurable, and not always measured.

KarinL (not always succinct!)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 7:28PM
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Yes, karinl, life is full of risks. But that doesn't mean that exposure to a serious one falls in the noise level. I worked in the area of toxic substances and lead abatement for many years, and elevated lead levels in children can have serious and permanent effects. lcdc99 appears to be proactive about this, which is wise and commendable. However, I am concerned with relying on homeopathic medicine to deal with this. The variations she has seen in her children's blood lead levels may be due to other factors than the effectiveness or lack thereof of such treatments.

Lcdc99: whatever you do, make sure a traditional physician is in charge of treating and monitoring your children. Traditional medicine can deal with this effectively and completely. If you are not relying on this approach, you are doing a disservice to your children. I'm not trying to be mean or judgmental. I'm just concerned with what I'm reading between the lines. If you're already doing this, great. If not, please do so immediately.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 2:07PM
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My husband I are grateful for the posts and the conversation around this topic. Thank you. We can relate to all viewpoints that have been expressed. It has been a winding journey for us.

Our peditrician follows the guidelines expressed above for the levels that we have which is basically to find the source and limit the exposure. Along with increasing iron stores and good nutrition. He suggested no other course of action but wait and see. We have regular blood draws to monitor the blood lead levels as I've noted in previous posts. We plan to do a hair anaylsis of all of us once the kits arrive. This would give us a comprehensive picture of many things that may be stored in our bodies.

My husband and I are both in the health/wellness fields. He is a doctor. We have had to find our own way with this which has included the following resources:
* Homeopathic physician
* Medical physcian who specializes in heavy metal and other detoxification (suggested a protocol that was too difficult to adminster to a less than 2 year old)
* Even Better Now and CC Raphael, http://www.evenbetternow.com/lead-poisoning-detox.asp
Kids Chelate and Clay Baths
* Local Resources from State and County for informational purposes
* Website for a comprehensive listing of things that contain lead - http://www.bluedominoes.com/lead-poisoning

I have researched this extensively and talked to many people. I'm learning that it would cost at least $30-40,000 to replace our windows. If we were low income and had .9 more elevated level we would have had a course of action set for us and financial resources potentially available. In talking with an abatement contractor he was all gun-ho to come meet with us and help us figure this out until I clarified that we weren't in the low income category. He then called back to let me know that he wouldn't have time and that he's booked out until November. Discouraging to say the least.

My one recommendation is that when anyone buys a home with known lead present that they take the initiative to connect with local and state resources to have things further tested and to learn what they can do to prevent exposure. Unfortunately, when we bought this place we signed off on the known lead, moved in and didn't proceed to do anything because we were unaware of what that really meant.

With all that being said, we have not taken an action on the offer for our home. It's ultimately our decision and we are proving to not be very quick at making it.

Is there anyone out there who had similar levels, stayed in the home and lived happily ever after? Or has an experience to share about living in a home with known lead?

Here is a link that might be useful: Resource for Lead and Heavy Metal Detox Among Other Things

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 4:03PM
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Thanks for responding. That's a much more reassuring picture than what I deduced from your previous posts. I won't give you any more advice, just best wishes...

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 5:57PM
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Your post reminds me of our own situation 4 years ago. We lived in a beautiful Victorian, with a great renovated kitchen too, and were happy there. At the time, my girls were 4 and 2, and they both had elevated lead levels; I don't remember the exact levels, but I know they didn't reach 10. I think the oldest was a 9, then fell to a 5, while the younger ones levels were slightly lower. All I know is I was so anxious, and had a lead inspection done. Like for you, they said it was mostly a concern in the windows, but as the upstairs trim was painted and had lead, that was also a concern where the doors closed and could rub up on the jam (?not knowing my door frame parts here), creating flakes and/or dust. So I too researched the issue for hours, and like you was so frustrated with the fact that there were no financial resources to help us preserve a beautiful home in a safe way without spending a LOT of money. I did send my husband off to a one day training/certification on how to replace windows in a lead-safe way. He did replace a lot of them (about 25), but we did not follow the rules exactly - only in that we did not have an inspection after each few windows were replaced to retest (a $500 visit. I did take the girls to my in-laws overnight each time he replaced some though. We also replaced the exterior clapboard with new wood for the bottom 15 feet, and I was so worried about the flakes from that we were outside vacuuming soil with HEPA vacs. I still worried. I do not miss those days.

So, what did we ultimately do? We moved. I was so tired of worrying about every time my toddler sucked her thumb or dug in the dirt. Yes, since we left, -the kids levels went down, and they've never been an issue for dd #3, who has only lived in our new house. And that has been *such* a relief. (Now I can worry about PVC! And bpa! And sunscreen!)
I now live in a house that is late-80s to the core - white tile, beige laminate counters, brass fixtures....it just feels soul-less after living in a house with such warm woodwork, artisan fireplace tile surrounds, push-button switchplates.....sigh.
But it also has a great neighborhood and good schools, something that I appreciate even more as the kids get older. So while I do find myself singing that "little boxes" song on my drive home some days, and I do have a LOT of renovation ideas, I am happy.

Yet, if truly you love this house and its location, I would look seriously at where else you would buy, and how much money you may have to put into making changes there you'd want, and figure out if instead going through with lead abatement would be the best thing for you. I remember how daunting this seemed, and how much I just wished there was a person who was an expert who would really just tell me what I should get done. In the end, your family will still be together no matter where you are, and that's what matters.

Sorry so long-winded - your post just brought me back to a time when I felt I wanted to strangle anyone who just pushed aside my concerns by saying "they were in old houses growing up and they were fine" but I also grew to resent the other side that made me worry so much I felt like sticking the kids in a bubble (Bpa-free and pvc-free, of course) and getting a needed glass of wine.

Good luck on whatever course of action you take. It is obvious you love your children and I am sure you will make the choice that is right for your family.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 8:57PM
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Oh my. I think you've just read my mind and heart. Thank you for sharing your story. We have talked about this dilemna with very few people (except the "experts") and I appreciate you taking the time to tell me your experience. It has caused lots of anxiety as you've described to the point that our oldest asks me regularly, "Can I touch this...does it have lead in it?" The sides as you describe it really hits home and I've had much frustration with both. I also have been reminded that new homes have toxic things in them that we may or may not know the effects of at this time. Where can I get some of those bubbles that you referred to :-) Again, much gratitude for your sharing.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 9:29PM
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As a parent, I think you ultimately have to listen to your parent voice and do what that says.

We moved into an old home not quite 2 years ago and have three children ages 5- 9, we have not had their lead levels tested. After reading your post, I think we will. Since I've never been in your situation, I'm not sure what I would do. I have to say, it would be really hard for me to leave my home. It's so us, I love being able to walk to places, I love the character of it, I love our neighbors. It's the ideal place for us to live and the way I'd like my children to grow up. I think what I would probably do is take care of the lead problem in the home and stay there. However, I wouldn't hesitate to move if there was no good solution to solving the problem.

There is one family I know that did have a similar situation. Their young children had very high lead levels and moving was not something they were interested in doing. So, they moved out for 6 months and had everything done. It was a hard choice, but their perspective was, this home and lifestyle is what we want for our children, so it's worth the time and expense to continue that. They moved back in and now there are no lead issues and instead of gradually doing projects, they are all finished. That path isn't the easiest path, but if you aren't totally sold on moving, it might be the right one. You might also want to check into your insurance policy, because I know that some things were covered by insurance. They had lead all over the house, but their main issue was the tub. The interior of their tub had been painted with lead at some point (you couldn't tell) and they were bathing children in it.

Thanks for posting this and please keep us updated.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 4:58PM
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Holier than thou here. I think I can safely say that no toxic substance has caused as much damage in all of human history than lead. Sure - that is primarily because it has been around along time whereas bpa has not.

But comparing lead to bpa is a bit like comparing smoking to a twinkee. Smoking is known in all forms at all exposure levels to be harmful to almost every body system. A twinkee might put on a few pounds and is devoid of any benefit. Lead has been known for a long time to be dangerous. The jury is still out on bpa. The government at all levels regulates lead and lead disclosures. The FDA is not really worried about bpa.

I'll admit that I really don't get the "emotional" attachment to some wood, plaster, concrete and a few other materials. I love my house but wouldn't stay in it another second if I felt it could affect my child's neurologic development.

I wouldn't live in a bubble but there are 2 things that I absolutely wouldn't allow my child to be exposed to - you guessed it - lead and smoking.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 6:43PM
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40K is a big number, but it is for a permanent solution. Some bathroom remodels cost more, and look dated in 20 years. Roll it into a heloc. At 5% 30 year amortization, you're talking $214 a month. That's cutting cable tv, getting rid of one cell phone, and one less dinner out.

You can probably find a way to do this.

I personally would find some underemployed folks, there seem to be plenty these days. Order protective gear for them and soygel paint stripper by the gallon, have all windows taken away and hand-stripped offsite. Plywood over the holes while it's done. But keep the orignal, old-growth wood windows if you possibly can.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 9:05AM
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Remember I said hubby had to take a class on lead...Well he said if theyre showing lead readings its too late ,Its in thier bones.
Its not floating in the air if you have say a window with lead paint it,seal it,the problem lies in the sanding.A good paint will seal it.
When specialist come in to remove lead they put down a tarp so when they sand it falls in tarp,lead is heavy.
A famous composer died the people exumed the body they found he died from eating off of lead dishes.Alot of old copper kettles were lined with lead.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 10:10PM
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bulldinkie - no specialist would come in, put down tarp and then sand - haha. There might be tarp down but they'd never sand. ;)

The composer you may have been referring to was I assume Beethoven. He had higher lead levels in his hair, indicating exposure in the weeks before his death - probably from medicine for what was really killing him (renal failure but no one knows why yet) and later they realized from analyzing the bones of his skull that it wasn't lead exposure that killed him as his lead levels were very low there.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 2:33PM
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Just ask her she knows all, ha ha Im done.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 10:48PM
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Yeah I sounded pretty know-it-all-ish, sorry about that!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 2:43AM
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The most common source of lead in lead paint is lead acetate 9AKA 'sugar of lead').

It was used to improve gloss and promote drying and hardening of the resin in the paint (alkyd resins harden by polymerizing, cross linking, and oxidizing).

It is not an especially dense material (1.6 t 3.2 g/cm^3, with lead itself at >11.3 g/cm^3) and with all the other lighter weight things in paint.

While metallic lead is dense, the sanding residue will NOT be especially heavy and the fine dust from sanding or window sashes rubbing on the tracks will remain airborne for a long time.

Inhaling it WILL produce a lead dose.

I would attempt to bury the lead under a new finish, but if that is not possible I would NOT allow children who have already managed to pick up lead in their bodies remain in the house.

Lead IS a real hazard, especially to growing children who are trying to get their brains set up for the rest of their lives.

If they have not been finding and eating paint chips (Sugar of lead tastes very sweet) or mouthing surfaces with lead airborne lead is a reasonable source.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 11:01AM
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Slowly sneaking around the corner, out of my hiding place, and sticking my 2 cents into this conversation....
I have skimmed through the majority of the replies here and will say that I think you have plenty (all-be-it confliciting) of advice, from all sides. I just wanted to be another person who has been/is going through this. Go grab a bag of popcorn, this may get long:
Eleven years ago, my dh and I moved into a Queen Anne style home built in 1904. The monent we walked in the front door we asked the realitor "so what's wrong with it?", and she answered "honestly, other than it's obvious age, nothing!" It is a beautiful specimine of victorian home, my dream home, and in amazing shape - inside and out. There is no paint on any of the woodwork, all original double-hung windows, no carpet has ever been tacked onto the floors, the original cedar exterior has been kept up with paint every few years, etc.... At one point the kitchen was updated with linoleum flooring and the bathroom has been through several up-grades. All else has been preserved in it's almost original state.
Fast-forward about 6 years; 2 summers ago we finally began the omious process of scraping and re-painting the old beast's exterior. We waited about 3 years longer than we should have, and the paint was peeling *bad*. We started on the "back" of the house where our children's play-set is. At that time we were the proud parents of 4 children, ranging in age from 6 to not quite 2. In the past, 1 or 2 times, the kids had their lead level checked at a well child visit, as we live in an old house. They were always within normal limits.
Bring on the well child visit for our then 2 year old ~ our only thumb sucker, none-the-less. His level came back at 20!! After the breaks were done squeeling on our painting project, all the boys were tested and they were somewhere around 4,6 and 11. The youngest was started on iron (he was also anemic) and the county had to come and test all over the house. Before she came, though, she did tell us what we could do to reduce levels ASAP (ie; before she even started her "investigation") within the house. We scrubbed window sills and floors like no tomorrow. I left 1 window "as is" so we could get an idea of what we were dealing with, though.
So, already long story short, the cleaned out windows tested within "tolerable" limits. The area on the kitchen floor under the high chair was above acceptable as was the front and back door entry ways. She explained that she had never worked a case where the exposure most likely occured outside, but thankfully she didn't assume this was impossible. So, the soil in the back yard was tested and came back at a level that was, apparently, too high to calculate (or something like that). But, since they were investigating a toxic lead level, all of the house was tested. Many areas were tested and listed in the citation, and we were originally given 30 days (!!!!???) to fix everything. Thankfully, again, the county health nurse is also a realistic human being who realized there was no way we were going to have it all done that soon. Along with painting the exterior, we have had to renovate both porches (there will be a seprate post on that in the next few weeks).
So, here we are almost 2 years later (his 4 year well-child check will be due in exactly 10 days!) and we are still considered "under investigation". Do I know where you are coming from? Oh yeah!!!!! This is my dream home, but my children (we have 5 now) are my world. We have the fortune of knowing exactly what the exposure came from, so eliminating the exposure has been possible. And our son's level was well within normal limits in 6 months. He was at 5 on his 3 year check (1 year after he was at 20) so levels can go down, despite what you may hear....
Again, our children are our world ~ and I will do anything to protect them. We are protecting them by maintaining safe practices with our old home. My hubby and I have had a few spats with regards to "this house", as it is *my* dream home, not necessarily his. Thankfully it is an amazing home, and he knows it. BUT, this has been a major source of stress and anxiety in our lives for the past 2 years!! Thankfully we don't have too much else to worry about, and every marriage has it's tests ;)
Phew, do you need a potty break yet? I think I'm ready to summarize ;)

In short, you can love your children, be a good parent, *and* live in an old home that you love. Opinions on parenting and child safety are going to be as plentiful those who are sharing them! On the flip side, if it is not worth the stress to you then that decision is OK too. You can always move into an older home when the birds have left the roost. Best of luck to you and know that you are not alone in this roller-coaster. Let us know the outcome, please!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 3:21PM
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Is anyone else lurking that wants to share their story with lead, kids and old houses?

Thanks, Mrs. Richards for your telling us your experience. A few questions come to mind...how do you keep your kids safe when projects are in process? Did you do any chelation or treatments with them? Do you have peace of mind or is this something that causes ongoing anxiety?

Thanks much!

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 2:20PM
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Sorry I didn't see your questions sooner (we have been soooo busy with this house!!)

"...how do you keep your kids safe when projects are in process?" = since our projects are outside it is a bit easier. We have been doing one side at a time and the kids are banned from that side of the house. The front porch was done last year, so all entry was through the back. Back porch this year so all through the front. Hubby has dedicated clothes that he ditches in the basement when he is done scraping (the kids do not go down there) and we have the worksite enclosed in plastic.
"Did you do any chelation or treatments with them?" = thankfully, no. Our sons levels were not that severe and the levels began to drop immediately when he was banned from playing in the back yard.
"Do you have peace of mind or is this something that causes ongoing anxiety? " = I would say we have peace of mind regarding the fact that one of the kids had a high lead level. He was completely asymptomatic and it was a lesson that we needed to learn regarding safe practices. Our only ongoing anxiety is trying to get all of this work done (ie the abatement process) while trying to keep any further exposures from happening. We are really feeling the heat as our new deadline is just around the corner. We do have to shout out once in a while things like "Do not play in that dirt, there could be lead there!" and "When you see those yellow ribbons it means *stay out*" - the kids need constant reminders to keep out of the work areas and neighbor kids are a whole other story... If I were too anxious about it I think we would move. We are being careful, and I will not stress about it. There are so many other worries in the world ~ I have to feel safe in my own home. It is just a decision we have made. I hope that makes sense? Best of luck to you, again. I hope you get a solution, as I said it just isn't worth too much stressing over!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 2:25PM
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