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Mama Vanessa; A Phish Phan… (from NH)

image 2My husband and I live in Dover, NH with our 17 month old daughter, Ursa.

We moved to Dover when I was 20 weeks pregnant with our first baby. We found a nice but small apartment right downtown. When Ursa was almost a year old we decided to move into a bigger house to give us all some more space.

This past July (2015) I found a realy nice apartment a little further from downtown but with huge windows, cool colored paint, lots of space and wood floors. I loved that there were so many windows so that the sun would shine into the house. When we moved in we were given that (legally-required) form from the landlord that you get that has a check box indicating that the house “might” have some lead paint. We didn’t think it was a big deal, because we watch our daughter and we didn’t intend to let her eat paint chips (the only understanding I had of how kids got lead-poisoning.)

image 3In August, Ursa and I took the 7 hour-drive (actually, it took us 14 hours with breaks!) to Watkins Glen, NY to see my favorite band (Phish) play at a weekend-long music festival (“Magnaball”.) As we were walking around the festival grounds we stopped at the Lead Safe America booth in the Phish Farmer’s Market and were given a free lead paint test kit. We talked to Tamara and her volunteers and found out that Phish’s drummer (Jon Fishman)’s baby had been poisoned, and that he and his wife, Briar had invited Lead Safe America to have a booth at the festival (sponsored by the WaterWheel Foundation) as a result.

At the end of the weekend I packed that test kit in with my luggage and made the trip home with Ursa.

When I got home I was eager to test our window sills (It’s a very old house and the windows were in rough shape.) The test swab turned bright red very fast, confirming that there was lead-based paint [and a lot of lead-contaminated dust].
It’s funny how the one thing I loved so much about our new home was the one thing that turned out to pose the biggest risk.

We weren’t exactly surprised, but we didn’t really know what to do. I started by following up with Tamara and joining Lead Safe America’s “secret” Facebook group for parents of lead-poisoned and lead-exposed kids and learned of some ways to reduce the risk.

Once we found out about the lead paint hazard in the windows, we took my daughter in for her well-child visit and we made sure to ask to have her blood lead level (BLL) tested while we were there. When we got the results, we learned that she had a BLL of 4.0. [I learned that while that level isn’t high enough to be considered officially “poisoned” (here in the U.S.), lead is so toxic that the CDC  says there is no “safe” level of lead in a child’s blood—her 4.0 was “hundreds of times higher than a natural background level for humans.”] That wasn’t exactly what we wanted to hear, but, after hearing so many stories of other parents in the group, it seemed like it could have been much worse.

image 4After learning that our baby tested positive for lead—with a BLL of 4.0 indicating a “definite source of exposure”—we kept cleaning very well and wiping surfaces. Because we had noticed a lot of peeling and chipping paint on the outside of the house and the porch, we made a point to never play in the yard or on the porch. We thought we were doing pretty well until we had her tested again.This second test was done just 8 weeks after her first test. When Ursa’s test results came back, we found out her BLL had risen to 5.7! [We suspect it was caused by some work that was done on our porch by workmen the landlord hired, but we will never really know. The landlord claims that “because he was not disturbing more than 20 sq. ft. on the exterior of the home he did not (legally) have to used lead-safe work practices”. As a result – dust had gotten everywhere with the porch repairs he had done.]

At this point we decided that since her lead levels had gone up so much in such a short amount of time, the best plan would be to move again, this time to a newer-construction safe home. After learning so much, we realized that we would never really be able to keep her safe in a house with lead paint; we would never be able to play in the yard or on the porch, and we would never really be able to relax and let her play on the floor.

We just (in the last couple of weeks) found out that we are able to get out of our lease, but unexpectedly my husband lost his job, which has left us without much time to come up with the funds to move. We did give our current landlord 30-days’ notice and we will be moving out by December first (he already has a new tenant set to move in – in spite of the lead hazards!)

We hope that we will be able to find a newer-construction apartment by December 1st, and that Ursa’s BLL will return to normal.

– Vanessa


November 6th – 6:00 pm: Ursa’s family has now found a lead-safe home, but needs help with the move-in costs (first month & deposit = $2,036) and help with the increase in rent.

A safe apartment is more expensive than what they had been paying for a lead-contaminated apartment ($1000+/month, vs. the $800+ they had been paying) so their increase in rent for one year will be approximately $2,400 ($200 x 12 months.)

Getting into a safe lead-free home will give them the chance to stabilize their lives and keep their baby safe in the meantime.

As a result, our goal is to raise $4,436 to help this family.

If you are in a position to donate in support of this family, contributions to the Lead Safe America Foundation are tax-deductible and can be designated to support this family by clicking HERE.

November 13th – 5:30 pm UPDATE:  27 people have chipped in and contributed a total of $990 to our $4,436 goal to help this family.  The family is scheduled to sign their new lease and move in to their new lead-safe home on November 23rd. Please help us meet our goal to help ensure that they can make this transition to a safe home for their kiddo.

As of 11/13 at 5:30 pm PST 27 people have donated a total of $990 to help this family.

Thank You.

7 Responses to Mama Vanessa; A Phish Phan… (from NH)

  1. Shannon Linzy November 6, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    I am a mother of four and a phish phan. I can’t imagine what you are going through. I wish you and your phamily the best.

    • Michelle Wuthrich November 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

      Your story is enlightening! I’m a single mom of 4 and one of my daughters has gone through an extreme amount of health complications this year so my heart can sympathize. I know there are moments that as her mother, I feel I should of been able to protect her more somehow. Your story confirms, like so many, why this group of phans, is so important to each of us. By John Fishman and his wife Briar, sharing their story, and connecting with Lead Safe America, you were able to be educated and protect your daughter. Phish chooses to help us have a voice and organizations like Lead Safe America helps us get it out there. We feel that dedication and it inspires all of us to stand together. This is my purpose for writing. My daughters and I managed to come up with enough money to buy a ticket in dedication for your family.

  2. MaryStarr November 8, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    You need to contact the health department of your county and report your landlord for lead exposure in the apartment. The landlord should be required to pay to relocate you and should be required by law to do lead abatement in the property. It’s good that there is fundraising in the community available for helping you out but there are also laws designed to protect tenants. Perhaps lead safe America can connect you with an attorney to negotiate with your landlord on your behalf? Or you could contact the NH Bar association and they will put you in touch with attorneys who offer pro bono representation to families in need.

    For what it’s worth, it’s good you found out early and you will be able to limit your daughter’s exposure by moving quickly. Pushing the landlord and the health department will help another family not have to go through what you are going through now. I went through this with my son, his exposure was more significant and his levels higher, but he has no evidence of illness or delay. We discovered his elevated lead levels at age two, he is now six and a half. So take heart! But make sure that house you are moving out of does not get left that wY to pounding other children, ok?

  3. Kathy Lauckner November 13, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    Web site to your health department. Contact them and give them the apt. address. Your landlord is in violation of your own state law and federal law to keep a dwelling lead hazard free… the 20 square feet has nothing to do with that.

  4. Dale P Nystrom MD November 14, 2015 at 6:41 am #

    I agree with Mary. The landlords will not be motivated to make changes unless they realize they face huge payouts to families they have hurt.

  5. Joel - November 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Best of luck – chipped in what I could – hope for new work, new home and continued happiness.

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