the amazing situation that just won't die- hint: it's lead!

April 1, 2011

Remember that time three weeks ago when the Health Department came to our house and tested it for lead? Yeah. That was fun, if by fun you mean more terrifying than a solid punch to the tits. But, regardless of how reluctant I was to let official persons enter and judge my home, it went well. They tested all surfaces and left with lovingly collected samples of dust from all around the house. It may not have been my preferred turn of events but it was the only step we had towards getting some damned answers and it was significantly better than that time the city issued a warrant for my arrest for not paying the taxes I didn't know I owed.

22 days later we had still not received our results. Phone call after phone call went unanswered, though I don't particularly think that was anything malicious on the Lead Clinic's part, just poor timing as our two lead-laden ships passed in the night. Finally yesterday I called again and got our inspector on the phone. (He's really rather pleasant by the way. Actually the whole lead team, our caseworker, the testing specialist, our clinic doctor– they're all kicking ass and taking names off the periodic table.)

After speaking with him it was clear why they hadn't mailed our results. They're... mystified. After identifying two problem areas in part of the house the Jude never goes to, the rest of the house passed muster. More than passed! What old lead paint is present in the house is being properly contained and is not a risk. The most critical part of the testing, the dust samples, all came back negative.

–Here's where we can all stop and do the NO LEAD DUST dance! Woot woot! No poisonous dust! Woot woot! Not our fault! HOLLA! –

So, good news right? Our house is not killing us slowly. We did not inadvertently buy a poison house full of baby-killing invisible elements. Take that my self esteem! Thus ends a whole era of "just sitting over here in my poison house" jokes. Lead lead lead!

However, that leaves us (and the Health Department) with a dilemma: where the HELL did it come from? Was it a one-time freak exposure? Something he was exposed to while traveling? They have no clue. I can, unfortunately, recall very clearly at least two specific times he was quite intimate with peeling paint at locations outside our home, memories which plague me if I stop too long to think about them. Was that it? Is that the reason?

Since his level is going down (as of his last re-test) things are looking good that it's not something he's coming into contact with every day. With lots of hand-washing and vacuuming we're hoping to keep it moving. We're still itching to get below that magical number where we won't have to go to the lead clinic anymore but his next test won't be until June. The sore spot is that without identifying what caused it we can't avoid it in the future. What if we unknowingly go to that same place and it spikes again? Dirt? Dust? Paint? Toys? No way to avoid it without knowing what it is.

The next step is something that totally blows. Screeeeeeee, full stop. And, something that I'm quite hesitant to mention here at all: they're going to test Awesome Babysitter's house. How's that for a fun new situation to present to your most beloved caregiver? Hey babysitter I absolutely love, adore, and trust, who has taught my child so much, the Health Department wants to come to your house, all because of us! Please don't hate me! Wheee! Imagining the panic and terror I felt at having them come to my own house I'm horrified to be the reason they're going to anyone else's. So... not cool. Cringe-worthy.

We all want to find out why this is happening, of course, and that's the priority, but I feel terribly terrible. Awesome Babysitter has kids of her own, as well as the other kids whom she cares for, and no other children have ever had a problem. I genuinely believe that this is not going to magically discover the cause. Who the fuck knows at this point!? I probably won't mention this again, to preserve her privacy, and because oh my god I think you're so cool why do I suck so bad and we're 'those people' and ohgoddammit I want to crawl under a rock and die. (Don't bother asking me any questions about the test/her, I won't answer you.)

The clinic believes it's also plausible that the source was something acute that he came into contact with at random or while traveling, and wouldn't that just be lovely? Sort of, in a scooby doo mystery way? Alright then, we're all agreed, the Mystery Machine is made of lead.

We're settling into a new kind of life, one of management and less of panic. Once the lead is in his system the only thing that will get rid of it is time, time and the prevention of exposure to any more. Hand washing, vacuuming, dusting, and yes, even a little appropriately placed paranoia about paint and public places. The shock of finding out about the lead poisoning was multiplied by the incredibly shitty way our {now fired} pediatrician handled it. Not only did they fail to notify us {ever} they casually threw out seizures and death and health department and chucked me out the door without another word.

We're adjusting. Things are not quite so dire. It's immensely comforting to be able to look around our house now and not see POISONOUS DEATH in every corner. It's here to stay, something we'll have to continue to deal with. Our life now includes lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is not the awesome.
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