Pb in MA

I've been meaning to write about this for a few weeks now, but the thought of sitting down and describing the process we've been through lately with lead has been just too draining to contemplate. But enough progress has been made and alcohol has been consumed over the past few weeks to have sort of numbed us to the pain, so I think I can share now.

Act I, Scene I

You see, in Massachusetts, the state really wants to make sure your children are safe. And Massachusetts has lots and lots of old homes. Old homes like ours.

Old homes with lead paint. (That's 'lead' as in 'dead', not 'lead' as in 'feed'.)

When we bought the house, we had just about every inspection ever imagined under the sun done on the house. Carbon monoxide. We don't have none of that. Creosote. We had some of that, but we made the seller get rid of it. Termites, dry rot, earthquakes, visible signs of plagues of locusts or frogs: check. None of the above.

Towards the end of the process, the seller and I were talking and he said, look, the place was built in 1739, I can't guarantee there's no lead paint in the place. I said, yeah, I know. In fact, I'm guessing there is lead paint someplace, but I'm going to try real hard to teach our children not to lick the walls. This was, after all, right after the seller agreed to rebuild the entire chimney, clean and line all the flues, which is not cheap. And that being said, we signed some papers and moved in.

Scene 2: Later that month... Squirmy went to the doctor for a kind of baseline, we're-back-in-the-U.S.A., let's get checked up test. I refer you back to that statement about the Massachusetts state legislature caring a lot about whether or not I'm letting my children chew on leftover bullets after I go to the shooting range. Actually, the state only cares if your child is under 6. After that, apparently it's fine. Which means that part of the local standard battery of tests if your child is under 6 is a lead screening. Squirmy pinged 'high'. Not 'poisoned' high. Not even 'you might want to take away the mechanical pencil refills' high. Just 'hey, you may want to check and make sure he's not using the apron from the Fisher Price E-Z-X-Ray playset as a safety blanket' high.

We had a good conversation with the doctor about likely causes: maybe he found a stray chip of paint lying around and thought it would make a tasty addition to his cheerios. Or maybe it's just dust. Dust from the windows opening and closing an blowing around in a kind of toxic zephyr. It's a one-off, though, and we'll keep an eye on it. Or you can pro-actively get your house screened, and see how you might address it. Also, the doctor has to let the state know the results of the test, and now, our phone is ringing off the hook with state agency people who want to help us by telling us stories about how our child might turn into a drooling drain on society if we don't let them come out and do a screen. But, oh yeah, if we let the State do it, we have to address any issue they find, whereas if we pay for the inspector ourselves, we can choose what areas we focus on. With about 30 seconds of Google-fu, I found this story. Holy crap. I think I'll pay the inspector myself, thank you.

Scene next: Man with lead gun shows up... We brought out an inspector who showed up with this really cool looking Star Trek-esque ray gun. He walked around our house for several hours, pointing it at pretty much every exposed surface, and spouting off numbers to his assistant, who diligently wrote these numbers in long columns on his clipboard. Turns out, about the only way we could have more lead in our house is if we started making home-made battery acid for the entire 18-wheeler fleet of New England. There's lead on the windows. There's lead on the door frames. There's lead in the floor paint. There's lead on the fireplace bricks. There's lead with a fox. There's lead in a box. There's lead in a boat. there's lead on the goat. I do not like lead here nor there. I do not like lead anywhere.

So lead-gun man walks us around the house and points out all the places where the lead paint has turned up. Of course, some of the places are the inside of cabinet doors, 6 feet off the ground. Not likely to be chewed on by your average toddler, and therefore less critical to address. This is why we hired our own inspector, so we could focus on things like, say, the window ledge next to the crib, rather than the underside of the attic storage cabinet or whatever.

Still, that leaves a whole lot of house to address...

End of Act I.

Join us tomorrow to see how our heroes rant and rave and feed their son liquid iron and fight off the evil lead. Also. There is drinking involved.