I am about to lay down some depressing truth.
Flint, Michigan is a tragic example of the government poisoning the citizens of this country - but it is not the only one. Not only are there other cities that have experienced similar lead levels in their water supply, but Lead. Is. Everywhere.
Lead causes irreversible brain damage. There is literally no way to "cure" lead poisoning. It is a big deal, no matter what anybody tells you about "playing with lead paint chips as a child and turning out fine."
Lead is not a problem that we dealt with back in 1978. It is a very scary problem today and our kids are at risk everywhere.
We recently purchased a house. As we are very conscious about toxins in our home, we felt uncomfortable waiving the right to a lead inspection, as our realtor recommended because in the northeast, most homes have "some level of lead" but it is "very easy to encapsulate" and "not that big of a deal." We were also told that our offer would not be accepted if we did not waive the lead inspection.
Do you know what gaslighting is? It comes from a 1938 British play where a husband adjusts their gas lights and then convinces his wife that it is not happening, making her question her reality. A more modern example would be from Girl on the Train. The basic idea is that a person manipulates another by trying to convince them that their perception of reality is not to be trusted.
So here we are - first time home buyers. We do 100% care about protecting our babies from toxic chemicals. We are still learning, though. So we relied on our realtor, who had previously pointed out asbestos in another home, to give us the real deal on risks.
She acted like it was no big deal. We did a water test (not the norm since we are on town water) but we are careful. When I saw that the water did not test for lead, I followed up with the inspector and did more research on lead.
I started following the Lead Safe Mama. I realized we needed a separate lead expert to come in and do a proper inspection for lead in the water, and on windows and doors and walls. When I requested time to enter the home again, we were told our inspection period had passed.
I struggled with what to do - do we pull our offer on a house that we love without knowing if it definitely had lead? Do we risk it?
As I struggled to make this decision, I encountered more gaslighting. Co-workers and friends all assured me that lead paint was "no big deal" and that we would be fine.
If people I knew and trusted thought it was fine, was I just being an overprotective crazy mom?
That is how gaslighting works. I began to question my powerful mom instincts!
When we finalized the purchase, we did a lead inspection right away. We were planning on renovations so I wanted to be strategic based on where lead might be.
We did not expect the results we got.
The inspector found lead everywhere. Walls, exterior and interior doors, windows, radiators, the basement, the garage, the exterior of the house. It had deteriorated in the garage, basement, and windows, so that lead dust sits on the floor and window sills ready to be tracked through the house.
Think about how often your kids put their hands on the floor and then in their mouth at some point. Think about how often they walk around barefoot and then potentially put their feet on or near their mouth. Think about opening a window and having lead dust float in the air, easy to inhale.
It takes a miniscule amount of lead dust to cause permanant brain damage.
What the fuck does that mean?
That could mean a kid becomes legitimately brain dead or intellectually disabled. It could mean autism-like behavior. It could mean ADHD. It could mean volatility, anger, and aggression. It is hard to predict how it will actually affect a particular kid until it is too late. Experts say over and over that there is no safe level of lead in a child's bloodstream.
And yet, Lead. Is. Everywhere.
Lead is in parks and school playgrounds - painted playgrounds, contaminated soil or from recycled old shredded tires that are used to make soft pathways or playing fields.
Realizing the extent of the lead problem has lead me to feel isolated and hopeless sometimes. Most people do not realize the extent of the problem, the risk involved, or they are just apathetic. I want to fight and rage against a system that has abandoned us a long time ago.
Who do we blame?
Is it the government that is not regulating this enough, not having high standards for ensuring regular lead tests in real estate transactions, or ensuring that every child under 6 is living in a lead-free home?
Is it the lead industry, for continuing to sell us products with lead in them? For not paying for the vast damage? Or for covering up the harmful effects of lead back in the middle of the century when business was booming?
As a mama protecting her babies, I need to ensure that our home is safe. And the quote we got is more than we have. So who pays?
We are still figuring that out, but selling it and making it someone else's problem is not an option. We want to shout from the rooftops and make sure this does not continue to be the dirty little secret (especially in the northeast where so many homes are old and charming and full of lead).