Newscenter 16 Special Report: Lead Poisoning - Part 1

When you buy a home, there are several things you need to inspect, like the roof, foundation, electric and plumbing.

But there's another test you should have done on your home: a lead test.

An Elkhart family bought their dream home three years ago.

But they've been living a nightmare ever since their kids were poisoned by lead paint.

Anthony and Carolyn Hunt's home is a beauty from the 1920's.

They discovered it when Anthony took the job as general manager of WVPE.

It was full of history, full of character and little did they know, full of lead.

Back in those days, homes were often coated in lead paint, it was reliable, durable and incredibly dangerous.

While the government banned lead additives for household paint in 1978, the danger is still in those older homes and is usually only detected when someone is tested.

For the Hunts, their then one-year-old son Silas was getting his shots at the Health Department.

"They asked if we lived in a house built before 1978. I said yes, and they offered us free lead testing. I'll take anything that's free, and so I accepted and we scheduled that," remembers Carolyn.

The test came back positive for lead poisoning.

"It can be very overwhelming having many different people and professionals in your house taking wipes on the floor, in the window sills, testing the soils, testing the children," Carolyn says.

The biggest problem for the Hunts was peeling porch paint.

One day while playing outside Anthony saw his son put a tiny paint chip in his mouth.

"I quickly tried to get it. I don't know if I got all of it, I think he swallowed some, we took him to be tested again and it had nearly doubled," explains Anthony.

It doesn't take much lead to contaminate a home, and it can cause irreversible brain damage in children.

Dawn Dunker is a clinical assistant with the Elkhart County Health Department. She says children are more susceptible because their brains are not fully developed.

"The blood brain barrier is a protective sheath, you might say, between the blood and the brain. That doesn't fully form until their 7th year of age," Dunker explains.

The hunts are watching their sons carefully now.

Silas is now three, there are two older boys and a new baby, Ren. Even Ren's blood tests picked up exposure to lead.

"We'll always be a little worried as to what will come of the future. But I feel very grateful that the Health Department helped us discover his lead poisoning, and also helped us find where it was coming from, and advise us on how to care for him," Carolyn says.

When buying a home, you can request a lead test during the inspection. It could cost you $500, but the Hunts say it is worth it.

It could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars and keep your family safe.

The Hunts have spent about $15,000 on repairs so far, but they estimate there are more repairs ahead worth tens of thousands of additional dollars.

Fortunately, they qualified for a new lead abatement program in Elkhart County.

Click on the related link below to read part 2 of this special report.

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