The Lead Issue

Friday, April 17, 2009
A few days ago, I linked to a Portland Tribune article written by Tamara Rubin about the risks to keeping urban chickens in backyards that may be contaminated with lead. I had initially felt I needed to do more research after reading the article, feeling the article lacked sources. I somehow missed the link to her blog, My Children Have Lead Poisoning, printed at the end of the article, which contains helpful resources, discussions, and information on this important topic. I know from experience that our pediatrician hasn't taken this issue seriously enough. Knowing that we live in an older home, she shrugged a blood test for lead poisoning off as something we could wait until her 15 month appointment to do. It wasn't until recently that I realized that her 15 month appointment came and went, and she still hasn't been tested for lead.

I guess the reason this article resonates with me is that our house was repainted in 2004. We bought the house in 2006. Just about every time I'm gardening around the perimeter of the house, I find broken glass and lots of paint chips. I'm fairly certain that a lot of the soil around our house is fill, hence the broken glass, but when it comes to the paint chips, I haven't given them too much thought other than to feel annoyed that they were in the soil.

Now I'm starting to realize that we could have a serious lead contamination issue in our soil. Sam was tested shortly after we moved into our house, but only because a few of his Thomas trains were recalled when it was discovered that they had been possibly painted with lead-based paint. He passed that lead test, but since then, we've had Juniper. She's still hanging onto her oral phase, and I noticed when we were outside yesterday that she was putting her hands in the soil, then into her mouth later. It's easy for me to see how children are so easily exposed.

When I read Paula's story, I felt sick inside and overwhelmed at what a big issue this is. I needed perspective, so I think what I am focusing on at this point is creating awareness and doing whatever we can to ensure our soil is lead-free or at least within an acceptable range. Tamara has a list of resources on her blog, and has written a comment beneath my post "Testing Soil for Lead" that I found to be helpful.

I'm in the process right now of tracking down a testing kit, then it'll be a few weeks before a lab will send us the results. From there, depending on the levels, we'll have to figure out what kind of assistance we could qualify for to get our backyard lead-free. I'm not concerned about lead inside our house, because our house is almost entirely old-growth fir paneling, and it wasn't until 2004 that a few rooms were sheet-rocked and painted, long after lead-based paint would have been an issue.

Tomorrow I leave to obtain the ark & run for the chickens. Had I been aware of this issue, I would have pursued lead testing in our soil long before signing up for chickens or a vegetable garden. Still, it's never too late to do the right thing, and hopefully my blog entries will also create awareness on this issue for urban dwellers. We won't let the chickens free-range for now, keeping them cooped away from the house, continue to maintain our raised bed, and go from there once we know--hopefully the testing will show everything is fine. If we're lucky, the paint chips around the house were from a coat of paint put up long after the era in which lead-based paint was commonly used. Any feedback (good or bad) on this issue would be greatly appreciated.



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