After daughter’s lead poisoning case, mother warns other parents
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 13:13

Tameka Witherspoon’s daughter Dallas was diagnosed with lead intoxication on Sept. 23, 2013.

 by Ben Boehl

    Dundalk resident Tameka Witherspoon says she and her husband do not want other parents to deal with what they have been experiencing.
    Witherspoon told The Eagle that her two-year-old daughter Dallas was exposed to lead when the family was living at an apartment complex in Old Dundalk. 
    Witherspoon did not want to reveal the name of the apartment complex, but wants to warn other parents about the dangers of lead poisoning.
    “It is a terrible illness a kid has to live with. I don’t want another parent or child to experience this,” Witherspoon said.
    According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control factsheet, “Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.”
    According to Jay Apperson, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), the agency inspected Witherspoon’s apartment unit and found high levels of lead.
    Apperson explained that an inspection is required when a child has been identified as having lead poisoning.
    “At the time of the referral, the child’s blood lead level was 32 micrograms per deciliter,”  Apperson noted.
    According to Apperson, an October 2013 inspection of the unit identified lead paint hazards. MDE then asked the property manager to move the family to a lead-free unit.
    MDE issued a Notice of Defect on Nov. 20, 2013.
    Witherspoon recalled that peeling paint could be found in her former apartment.
    “We had peeled and chipped paint. She must have ate a piece. Then it became an addiction to her,” she said.
    A representative of the pediatric office treating Dallas confirmed the toddler was diagnosed on Sept. 23, 2013.
    Because of the level of lead in her bloodstream, Dallas is likely to deal with lead-related medical issues for the rest of her life, and could pass along some problems if she has children.
    As a result, Dallas goes for treatment at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital and has to follow a strict diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Witherspoon said that the special diet is expensive and she believes the lead intoxication is starting to affect Dallas’ behavior.
    “My husband and I have seen a difference in her behavior,” Witherspoon said. “It is more than the terrible twos.”
    On its website, Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services provides tips and warnings about lead. Stomach pain, headaches, vomiting and feeling weak are among the physical symptoms children exposed to lead can experience, but the county states that many children with lead in their blood sometimes show no physical symptoms.
    Lead is usually found in older homes and buildings as lead was added to paint until 1978. The county also notes that lead can be found in products such as toys, jewelry and furniture, especially those made in other countries.
    Parents are also advised to get their homes tested for lead and to keep kids away from peeling paint. Finally, the county recommends that parents get their children tested for lead.
     Witherspoon agrees with that recommendation.
    “I didn’t know she had it until she got tested. You don’t need a reason,” Witherspoon said. “If you have any doubts, go get tested.”