Saturday, June 12, 2010

Update on the Lead Issues

I posted earlier that we had a home test kit show positive for lead.  Since then, we've had a lot happen and a lot still needs to happen.

I have learned that the EPA considers these home test kits to be unreliable.  It would have been nice to know that years ago when we used the first one and got all negatives.  We might not be in this situation had we not thought our house was safe.  Anyway, the local expert tells me even the positive test isn't reliable; however, we have other confirmation that there's definitely lead in the house...

Our kids have tested positive for lead exposure.  Mika, Sam, and Josh all test at 1.4, 1.4, and 1.5 ug/dL.  Madelynn, however, is at 3.3 ug/DL.  From my research and discussions with various people, I've learned that 10 ug/dL is the current "action point", or the point at which doctors have determined medical action must be taken to remove the lead from the body.  They are talking about lowering that action level to 5 because they are seeing damage done and lower levels.  Maddie is almost at that new level.  On top of that, lead levels don't peak in children until the age of 18-24 months, and Maddie is only 10 months.  That means there is a very real possibility that she will reach that action level.  It's really scary.  Lead can damage all body systems, including the central nervous system.  Once damage is done, it is often permanent.

So, we have two things going on.  First, I spoke with someone at the state level who contacted the city level people who do the lead stuff.  The city people have already used up all of their funding for lead remediation; however, the state is rewriting the contract to give them more for our house.  However, that is only worth $11,000 in repairs, and because it is through HUD, the inspector has to look at the whole house, not just the lead issue.  His program can go up to $25,000 in repairs but the difference between the $25,000 and $11,000 is in low interest loans secured by home equity, of which we have none thanks to the economy dropping our value $80,000.   With no equity, we would be denied that loan so any repairs made must fit in that $11,000 limit.  Further, this is a slow process.  They have to get me an application.  I have to fill it out and return it.  Then they will approve it and send the guy I spoke with out to inspect our house.  At that point, a plan will to created to decide what will be done based on the needs, HUD requirements, money available, etc.  Then they have to put it to bid, wait for bids, and accept bids.  Meanwhile, we still live in a lead contaminated home.

Not good!  The inspector suggested getting the kids and I out of the house and Scott finishing our flooring because it will be easier to clean.  However, we don't know what Scott's exposure is and the fact that he isn't a lead expert, there's a good chance he'll be exposed even more (and we think he probably got tons of exposure while ripping out the first three rooms of carpeting without knowing he should be taking special precautions.)  It will also likely kick up lead dust in the house, and unless he does a perfect job with containment and clean up (it all has to be done in a special way), it could lead to more exposure for the kids and I when we return to the house to await the inspection and plan to be carried out.

Definitely not good!  So, we are seriously considering mailing our keys to the mortgage company and walking away from the house.  This house is not worth the risking our kids' health, permanently.  Still, it is hard to walk away from your home and your commitment and responsibility to repay that mortgage.

So, while the decision hasn't been made yet for sure, we are starting to look for a rental to move into.  Since we expect it to be long term (as in years), we're looking for a place big enough for our family and in a nice enough neighborhood for our kids to grow up in.  We need 3-4 bedrooms because of our family size, and we are hoping to stay in the area...or south King County, Pierce County, north Thurston county.  Ideally, we'd take our pets but we will rehome some of them if we have to. 

So, if you just happen to know of a good lead free (ie. built after 1978), 3+ bedroom home in a decent neighborhood that needs reliable renters, let me know.  We've never missed a payment in the 11  years we've lived here.

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