LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 1 no 1 Feb 1993   ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Keeping the outside out: A mother's lament

by Elizabeth O'Brien

My baby's got lead poisoning just from living in the city. With a mop in one hand and a sponge in the other, I wander around saying 'The floor is never clean, just remember that.' How could they forget - I tell them every day. 'Even when it's just been washed the floor is never clean. '

Early on I struck upon it ­shoes at the door, it had to be the answer. One day I caught the big kids inside with their shoes on. 'But we climbed through the window,' they said. Nobody mentioned taking: shoes off at the window - how were we to know?' 'Alright, alright, I said, 'but did you have to try to pass the baby through the window?'

Life was hard back then ­there was always a new fad they had to contend with. First it was the lead factory. 'Don't breathe when you're near it,' I instructed them. 'That's a bit difficult considering it's across the road from the school, mum.' So we educated each other.

'The baby will have to have a new room,' I declared. 'There are cracks in the ceiling in the old bedroom and we can't have all that lead-laden ceiling dust falling on us in our sleep, can we?'

Then it was the paint on the buildings on the way to school. 'Don't touch that wall, don't put your hand in your mouth', I had to tell them. 'Has everything got lead in it?' they wondered, when they got home. 'Practically.'

'It's because of the dust. The stuff just keeps falling out of the sky - don't climb up on that windowsill - it's filthy, it hasn't been sponged down for at least an hour.' 'But mum,' the big kids said, 'don't you think the baby's been stuck in the window long enough?'

Next it was the car. Aside from not breathing when crossing busy roads and putting up all the car windows to avoid the lead in the petrol fumes at the service station, we haven't changed our inhalation habits much at all.

'We should use the car less,' I lectured. 'It'll only take an hour to walk to your music class.' 'No, mum - let's just try putting unleaded petrol in the car.' I had to admit they had a point there.

'Ping ping ping' went the car. 'That's only a matter of tuning for unleaded petrol,' said the man from the motoring authority. 'But I've just paid $108 for the car's annual check-up,' I said. 'Ah, but you didn't go to one of our approved repairers, did you? It'll only be another $46.

'It may have sounded cheap to him but when I added it to the cost of trialling every mop on the market even though no-one would give me a trade-in on the now useless broom, running a Med-Line search on the latest grisly research findings on the effects of lead on children, buying ten new floor mats, removing all the carpets in the house and putting down patterned cork tiles called 'Land, Sea and Wind' from Portugal - it came to a grand total of $10,000. 'You could have moved house for that,' he chided, 'Sounds like you should have some of our personal indemnity insurance for when someone slips on a floor mat, falls on their head and suffers permanent brain damage.' I hung up.

'Yeah mum', the kids said, 'We could have bought some real land, sea and wind at Helensburgh and been outside the Sydney and Wollongong lead bubbles. '

'Instead we get,' they chorused in unison:

'''Wash your hands and feet!"

"Clean under your nails!"

"Don't put the baby down on the floor! "

"Don't play with the floor mats!"

"Keep your feet off the furniture!"

"Finish your milk or you'll be calcium deficient and absorb more lead!"

"Mind the wet floor!"

"Don't crawl under the bed, the baby will follow you and I haven't mopped there for three days. '" (Don't you hate it when they chorus in unison?)

I threatened to discontinue their music lessons so they tried a new tack. They told me to take pity on the fishes in the sea and stop washing all that lead dust down the gutter. I tried to explain that every mother's instinct is to protect her own baby first but they lectured, 'The earth's not flat mum, you can't just push your pollution off the edge -fishes have babies too.'

'Mum,' they went on, 'you'll lose all your marbles if you keep mucking around with mops. Why don't you just go and get the lead out of petrol?'

So I am.

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