We’re all following this “Occupy Wall Street” movement now to some degree. You can’t avoid it. Even if you’re someone like me – a busy, working mom with four young boys – who often can’t find the time to watch the news or even pick up a newspaper on a regular basis, it’s part of my consciousness. (Here in Portland, Oregon – if I still weren’t following the “Occupy Wall Street” phenomenon, I couldn’t miss the “Occupy Portland” event!)

It can’t be overlooked (it’s staring us all in the face actually) that this is happening as a result of the financial crisis our country is in—even bigger than “country”—our society – the fabric that is made of individual flesh-and-blood families and our social, professional, personal, financial and other interactions.

For one family in Portland, Oregon (formerly “upper middle class”/”white collar” /”successful”) this financial crisis is very tangible with constant daily reminders…

Have you ever had a day where you got a gas shutoff notice, an electric shutoff notice, a water shutoff notice and a “foreclosure acceleration” letter all on the same day?

Our own family’s financial crisis started with a medical “event” six years ago, in 2005. This was an event that was 100% preventable – yet one that has cost us personally more than $200,000 (plus interest)! More important—this event compromised the integrity of our most precious resource: the health and well being of our children.

Our boys were poisoned by the work of a painting contractor we hired to repaint the exterior of our lovely home in the upscale Historic Irvington neighborhood of Portland. Before the boys were poisoned we felt relatively fortunate. While we had a mortgage – we finally had no other debt! We had steady income and we had a resource we thought was more valuable than anything (at the time) equity in our home.

We had no concept of the scope of challenges that would unfold in our future. Childhood lead poisoning causes permanent, irreversible brain damage (literally; the growing brain of a young child absorbs the lead in the place of calcium, so the brain is damaged and no longer functions as designed.) When children are exposed very young, it causes learning disabilities, behavioral issues, immune system compromises and a host of other related medical impacts that can present challenges for the rest of their life (A.D.D., A.D.H.D., Autism Spectrum symptoms, Dyslexia, Sensory Processing Disorder and more.)

Childhood lead poisoning costs the United States an estimated $50.9 Billion dollars in increased health care costs alone*. It costs the State of Oregon (just as one example) an estimated $878,000,000 annually in the lost earning potential of the children poisoned**. Childhood lead poisoning is often cited as the most costly wholly preventable environmental illness today. The numbers are conservative estimates, based on Federal statistics (that many research scientists say are outdated, “spun” downward and only represent a fraction of the true scope of the growing problem).

Ironically, when we got the call that informed us that our boys were poisoned, we were hastily uprooted (the doctor called late in the evening and told us to “leave with your children and take only the clothes on your backs”!) and in the end, we were never to “occupy” our beloved home again.

I write this rather dramatic introduction as a cautionary tale. It is my personal goal to create a Lead Safe America – to make sure that what happened to us and our children will not happen to you and your children – your nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors and grandchildren.

In the following blog posts this week I will be sharing with you some of what I have learned – including practical tips on what you can do to protect your children from being poisoned by lead with simple actions and awareness focusing on two areas – your child’s home and their school and/or daycare.

In the meantime, please check out my websites – both my new nonprofit foundation’s site www.leadsafeamerica.org and my personal advocacy site http://www.mychildrenhaveleadpoisoning.com for more information, and don’t hesitate to contact me directly if you have questions about lead in your home or if you would like to know how you can help protect children from being poisoned by this wholly preventable environmental illness.

* Study by Leonardo Trasande, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-05/tmsh-eco050411.php

** Oregon Environmental Council, Price of Pollution Report.

Tamara Rubin

Winner of the Inaugural National Healthy Homes Hero award presented in June 2011 by a consortium of Federal agencies (including the EPA, CDC, HUD, USDA and U.S. Department of Energy), Tamara Rubin has been a childhood lead poisoning prevention advocate since her children were poisoned in 2005.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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