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Lead Poisoning Prevention Month 2014: Ember’s Story

IMG_7668Originally written by Mama Megan Gray in St. Clair County, Alabama – September 13, 2014 & updated October 4, 2014

We are the Grays.

Alex works full time as an Animal Control Officer, working anywhere from 40-70 hours a week, committed to improving the lives of animals in our area, fighting animal cruelty, and protecting the public. Megan works from home as a Closed Caption transcriber.  Zabrina, 13, is an honor student who marches in the band.  Ember, 11 months, spends most of her time playing with blocks and making up silly songs that we don’t understand yet.

In the Spring of 2013, our family embarked on what was meant to be our version of the American dream, but it has turned out to be a nightmare. We bought a historic home for our growing family. Little did we know it would drain our life savings and poison our baby…


Ember’s Home

Knowing there are often lead hazards in older homes, we specifically asked the realtor about the possibilities. We were reassured that the home was painted with historically accurate milk paint, and/or latex paint in some areas, and that we had nothing to worry about.  We hired a master level certified inspector, hoping that would give us added security. We trusted these professionals. Nobody gave us a reason to believe that our home would be a danger to our family, despite knowing that we had a teenager and a baby on the way.

We thought we were well prepared to do the necessary repairs to the home, but as historic homes are wont to do, there was a surprise emergency around every corner. In a matter of months we were tapped out, living paycheck to paycheck and relying on family to help us, just in time for the birth of our daughter.


The French Doors

Fast forward to August. Ember is 10 months old. She spends a lot of her time playing near and looking out the French doors while Megan works from home. She loved to watch for blue-tailed skinks on the porch. When she was teething, she was even caught chewing on the doors a few times. Little did we know…

She also enjoyed taking a bath in our big farm sink, splashing and playing with her rubber duck.

On August 15, our lives changed forever. Ember had a bite of egg for breakfast and an anaphylactic reaction. Blood work was done to asses her allergies and our doctor said “We have to test her lead level at her 12 month appointment, so let’s just do that now and get it over, since we have to stick her anyway.”

Never did we expect the phone call a few days later.

Ember not only has many severe food allergies that have changed our entire lifestyle, as well as environmental allergies, she also had lead poisoning. Her blood lead level (BLL) came back at 11 mcg/dL. We feel that the lead in her body contributed to her allergies, overwhelming her system with toxic foreign material.


The Kitchen Sink

We tested all over the house and found out that our doors, including the French doors, some shelving, and even our kitchen sink, tested positive for lead.

Our original plan – when this post was first written: we had planned to strip and repaint the doors, but the French doors really need to be replaced. The sink needs to either be sent off to have professionally re-enameled or replace the cabinet, sink, and install a backsplash. This is an overwhelming process which we feel needs to be done urgently to protect our family, but we simply don’t have the funds to attack this head-on.

We hate to ask for help, but we desperately need it to protect our child.

– Megan Gray
St. Clair County, Alabama

UPDATE: Since Megan first contacted us, she has further taken stock of the hazards in her home and they have chosen to move to protect their children. Their move is 850 miles away – to temporarily stay with family until they can find a safe / permanent new place to live. They have revised their request for help to requesting help with the cost of moving to this new/safe/temporary home.

If you are in a position to help Ember and her family please click HERE to make a tax-deductible donation designated directly to help her family.*


We will post updates with funds raised here  – as they are donated.

GOAL: $3,500 towards moving/ relocation costs
Sorry that the updating of this list is not automated in any way.

You should receive a PayPal receipt for your donation via email as soon as you make the donation.
Your official thank you letter (for your taxes) will be sent via snail mail shortly.

As of right now November 07, 2014 – Friday
Noon.. Pacific Time
…the following TWENTY TWO folks have donated a total of $1,060.00

  1. From Alex’s Father – 10/29 – Oregon
  2. Katie Robertson – 10/24 – Alabama
  3. Kim Smith- 10/12 – Texas
  4. Cynthia Jennings- 10/12 – New York
  5. Angela Gibbons – 10/10 – Texas
  6. Puren Akcali Tekin – 10/10 – California
  7. Amanda West – 10/9 – Pennsylvania
  8. Kristen Achord – 10/9 – Florida
  9. Robert Bishop – 10/8 – Texas
  10. Danielle White – 10/8 – Hawaii
  11. Francisco Muniz – 10/8 – Kentucky
  12. Nick Stubblefield – 10/8 – Texas
  13. Kendall Smith – 10/7 – Colorado
  14. Rebecca Fitch – 10/7 – Texas
  15. TheLightANDTheDark – 10/7 – New Jersey
  16. Betty Dirnbeck – 10/6 – Missouri
  17. Anna Carr – 10/5 – Alabama
  18. – 10/4  – Alabama
  19. Jennifer Medley (friend of Shelly Ann Edge McDonald) 10/4 – Florida
  20. Jessica Smith – 10/4 – Alabama
  21. Leanna Clemmons – 10/4 – Alabama
  22. Flowers By Kate – 10/4 – Alabama

Expenses to Date to Help Ember’s Family

Uhaul Moving Truck: $602.37  —  11/3/2014

Everyone who donates will also get FREE lead-paint tests kits to test their home or give away in their community (when we send them their thank you letter for their donation.) As we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit – contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.

*Please note: It can take 3 weeks to 3 months for us to allocate the funds to help any particular family, depending on how they choose to allocate the resources/ board approval of their choice and vendors they choose to use.  Payments of designated funds are made directly to vendors and not to the family personally.



4 Responses to Lead Poisoning Prevention Month 2014: Ember’s Story

  1. Missy Kirkland October 5, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    My heart is broken for my niece and her family. I am shocked to hear the home was inspected and the realtor who sold them sold the home were so dishonest….anything for a buck! I challenge THEM to help. I don’t know anyone more devoted to her children than my niece. Her family means everything to her. I am out of town, but when I get back next week, I will sit down with my husband and try to send something. I’m so sorry this is happening to you and your beautiful family!

  2. Jimmy October 5, 2014 at 2:41 am #

    My heart breaks every time I hear these stories as I have 3 daughters myself. This also brings up a good point if your are going to hire a professional to Remodel or Renovate make sure to hire a Lead Certified Contractor. By law any home built prior to 1978 is to be tested on every area you plan to disturb or demolish if you use a contractor. If not tested by the contractor their could be tens of thousands in fines. Specific details can be found on the EPA sites.

  3. Maher October 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Really sad story! Anybody with legal experience knows if the family can sue the realtor, previous owner or the inspector for failing in their duties or nondisclosure of presence of lead?

  4. Megan Gray October 7, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Thank you all so much for the support!

    We are exploring legal action and I can not comment on that until we know more.

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