I am Afraid for My Children

Taken from Public Testimony  in Rhode Island

Good morning. My name is Stefanie Taylor and these are my children: Britney, Keiron and Ashley. I am here today on behalf of my three children and the children in Rhode Island who now suffer from the effects of lead poisoning. I presently live in section-8 housing and I believe that my housing is the cause of the lead poisoning, which has affected my children.

This problem has been continuous because prior to section-8, we lived in HUD project-based housing. Both environments have been negligent in maintaining a lead free environment.

Our story began in July of 1995 after my children Britney and Keiron were found to have blood levels of 20 and 23. The Health Department would not inspect the apartment because their levels had not reached 25. Desperate and concerned with my rent subsidy of about $600.00 per month I moved to an apartment on Adelaide Avenue.

In March of 1997, my youngest daughter Ashley was tested and found to have a lead level above 30.

The health department came in, noted the chipped lead paint around the windows and the outside of the house and declared it lead hazardous. I spent many hours cleaning, duct taping windows, making phone calls; trying to make our home lead safe while looking for support and help. Once again, I moved to another apartment on Wesleyan, had it inspected by a Public Housing Authority inspector and moved my family there after receiving approval.

In late August, Ashley's blood work showed that her lead level had risen to 47. I was told that if the level reached 50, my daughter would have to be hospitalized. The Health Department inspectors told me that led dust from the window sills was a hazard and that the soil she had played in all summer had a lead amount five times higher than was safe.

I immediately moved my children to my mother's lead-safe house and thoroughly cleaned my own apartment with TSP, a special anti-lead cleaner. Once again, I was looking for housing. I had a very difficult time finding a four-bedroom
subsidized housing guaranteed to be lead-safe for less than $1,000 month, which I could not afford.

Right now I am living from boxes and I'm trying to find a lead-safe environment. If I tell you I am not afraid, I would be lying to you. In the best case scenario, my children will suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD), hearing and speech impairments, and loss of intelligence.

In the worst case, I can expect my children to suffer
serious health problems that will lead to coma, convulsion or death. For the past four years, I've been worrying about whether my section-8 housing would be hazardous to my children.

The Project has been a tremendous resource for me. They have showed me that my case is not an isolated one and they have provided me with support, resources, education and awareness. Today, I am in the process of moving to a lead-safe home thanks to the resources provided by the Project. Today, my children are very hyperactive and have learning problems. I would like my children to live in a lead-safe environment.

For me, this means a nice clean safe place to live that will not make a bad situation worse. According to sources in Rhode Island, one out of five children have elevated blood lead levels. In addition, minority children are twice as likely as white children to have elevated blood lead levels. Ladies and gentlemen, we need programs to address this situation before there are other families that will have to experience what I had to endure. Just because I am a single parent and I receive public assistance, my children should not have to suffer hazardous living conditions. We deserve to have a quality of ife consistent with a safe, healthy environment.

Thank you.

Lead at low levels is a serious threat to the central nervous systems of infants and children. Lead toxicity in the blood has been found not only to impair early school performance, later grade school performance, but also to negatively affect cognitive functioning into young adulthood. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990:

"The persistence toxity of lead was seen to result in signifiant and serious impairment of academic success, specifically a seven fold increase in failure to graduate from high school, lower class standing, greater absenteeism, impairment of reading skills sufficiently extensive to be labeled reading disability (indicated by scores two grades below the expected scores), and deficits in vocabulary, fine motor skills, reaction time and hand-eye coordination."

Within the human body, lead damages the nervous system, circulatory and blood forming system, reproductive system, kidneys, and gastro-intestinal tract. In adults lead poisoning can cause various symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach disorders, forgetfulness, headaches, insomnia, irritability, hypertension, anemia, reduced desire for sex, impotence, dizziness, and weakness in the extremities.

It is much more serious when children are exposed to lead. Since the brain has not yet completely developed, lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, lowered IQ, and anti-social behavior. Elevated levels of lead sustained over a period of time, can damage the central nervous system of children and adversely impact their development.

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