Maine mom says lead poisoning caused her child's disabilities

NOW: Family affected by lead

AUBURN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- As the Maine CDC increases inspections on homes that possibly contain lead paint, more parents report that they believe their children's developmental disabilities are due to lead poisoning.

In September, the previous Maine Legislature made Maine the first state in the country to adopt federal recommendations to decrease the level of lead in the blood considered "toxic" from 10 micrograms per deciliter, to five.

Cheryl Keaton said her daughter Cheyenne, who is now 15 and receives daily treatment at Spurwink in Lewiston, suffers from a range of developmental disabilities. Keaton said when her daughter stopped talking around age four, Child Developmental Services recommended she have Cheyenne's blood tested for lead. At that time, she tested at a level of 4 mcg/dl. She was tested again at age six, and had a level of seven mcg/dl.

"Once the damage is done, it's done. You can't reverse it. You can't go back," said Keaton. 

Keaton originally lived in a home in Buxton, and said she had to sign a disclaimer, acknowledging that she knew she was moving into a home that had lead paint. 

"It feels like we don't have a choice. You have to move, and you have to take what you can get when you get it," said Keaton.

Keaton moved again, and again, finally landing in an apartment in Auburn. Again, she signed a similar disclaimer, but said the lead paint had been painted over, but not removed.

"It's like all the places have lead in it," said Keaton. 

The cities of Lewiston and Auburn report three times the amount of lead-poisoned children than the rest of the state. They received another federal grant worth $3.4 million in June to help get rid of lead in homes.

"That's the same level that New York City and Chicago receive. It's the highest level. It's really a reflection of the challenge here," said Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston's director of economic and community development. "Part of that may be that our testing levels are higher, but nevertheless, it's a very high level so it is a serious issue that warrants action to be taken."

The last round of grants, awarded to the cities three years ago, got rid of lead in about 220 units. Jeffers said there are about 5,800 units in Lewiston's downtown area that possibly have lead due to their age.

Some landlords in the area said the grants make it possible for them to reduce the problem. Anthony Jolicoeur said the city replaced porches on one of the buildings he manages with some of the federal funds.

"This was a godsend for us. It really helped us out and it made our property safer for our tenants," said Jolicoeur. 

While these grants could help future families, for Keaton, it is too late.

"We've got to take the lemons we were handed and make lemonade out of it, and that's the worst thing as a parent is knowing something is wrong with your child and there's nothing you can do to fix it."

 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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