Reviewed by Hansa Bhargava on May 08, 2017


Rosa Woodard, Home Owner<br> Edwina Gibson, Center For Working Families<br> Robert Geller, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine<br> “Laura”, Home Owner

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Video Transcript

ROSA WOODARD: Once I was tested, I was informed that we tested positive for lead-based paint. Front door, window sills, back doors, bedrooms, bathroom, practically the whole house.

SPEAKER: Rosa Woodard is getting lead paint removed from her home. Deteriorating lead paint poses serious health hazards, so she's getting help from the Center for Working Families.

EDWINA GIBSON: We abate lead in homes in the city of Atlanta built pre-1978. So we address all lead hazards in those homes. We go into areas where the houses appear to potentially have lead, and we just knock on doors, like here, this is a free program. We can come in and test your home, just to see if there's something going on. We do this for families because lead causes all types of issues that a lot of people are unaware of. So a lot of what we do is provide education.

SPEAKER: Lead is an often invisible problem that can occur in older homes all across the US. Homes built before 1978 are at higher risk for lead paint contamination. And homes built before 1988 are at risk for lead in the water supply.

ROBERT GELLER: For lead, it only gets into your body in one of two ways. Either you swallow it or you breathe it in. Homes that still have that paint on the wall can have that become available in the air or as dust on the floor. And then a young child can eat it, it can fall onto food surfaces that are then used for food preparation, or on the food itself.

Water poses two different kinds of hazards. One is your interior plumbing. The other is your exterior, what the water supply that arrives at the house.

SPEAKER: Ingesting even tiny amounts of lead is especially harmful for children.

ROBERT GELLER: We're looking at children who have an increased rate of learning disabilities and more likely to have attention deficit like symptoms with higher lead levels.

SPEAKER: Because of this danger, Rosa and her grandchildren will move out for at least a month while the lead paint is remediated in her home.

ROSA WOODARD: My goal is just to make sure that everybody get tested. I wish that for all of us in this community.

SPEAKER: But getting tested isn't always simple. Laura was asked by the water utility in her suburban neighborhood to test her drinking water for lead. Doing the test was easy, but getting the results wasn't. Because she's worried about the negative impact on her home value, Laura wishes to keep her identity secret.

LAURA: I was called on the phone, and they said they're going to be testing drinking water. And they needed people to volunteer to be tested, and they wanted my house tested, so I said yes. I was definitely worried about the lead, having two kids at home and was also interested in knowing what my drinking water levels were.

SPEAKER: Two years went by without Laura getting the results. Federal law requires that people who test for lead get their results back in 30 days.

LAURA: When it didn't come back, I just assumed maybe it was lost in the mail. And I kind of after two or three phone calls, I just let it go.

SPEAKER: Finally, a letter came in the mail. Her lead levels were 25 parts per billion. The EPA's legal limit is 15.

LAURA: I do a lot to take care of my house, my health. We eat right, we exercise. But you really can't control your drinking water. It comes out of the tap, and you're at the mercy of whatever water company that you have, and you hope and pray that it's safe, but you don't know.

ROBERT GELLER: We believe that adults are more tolerant to the acute effects of lead. We know that it also creates a higher likelihood that they will have high blood pressure, and it is associated with a higher risk of kidney disease.

SPEAKER: Laura plans to retest her water, then decide what to do next. ROBERT GELLER: If it's coming from internal water supplies, probably the best thing to do frankly is to replace your plumbing. Or if the problem is in the community water, you can use bottled water or you can use a filter system that is either a whole house water filter or a filter specifically on the faucet.

SPEAKER: A month later, Rosa is back in her home now that the risk of lead has been removed.

ROSA WOODARD: I felt like I didn't have a place that I belong where I felt comfortable, happy, and safe. Now, the feeling is different. It's positive. It's full of energy, there's more light. There's life again in this house.