THE frightening spectre of lead poisoning lingers over the lives of a flood-ravaged Ipswich couple.
Unwittingly, Cathy Mason and Michael Vallance exposed their two young sons Jack and Lukah to the lead-laden dust that was released when they were repairing their North Ipswich home soon after the 2011 flood had consumed it.
With no insurance money to pay for tradespeople, the couple were doing the work themselves.
“We got a heat gun and we were peeling the paint off,” Ms Mason said.
“Underneath was the lead and it was all dusty.
“The media at the time were talking a lot about asbestos.
“There was nothing said about the paint and the lead.”
Tests done in March last year showed that Jack had a lead level of 22 micrograms per decilitre – more than twice the current limit – and Lukah had a level of 15 micrograms.
“They’ve shown signs of effects. It affects development and stunts growth,” Ms Mason said.
“It definitely affected Jack’s immune system. He was always sick.
“We’re still a bit worried about Jack and his development.
“We go for tests every three months and his levels are coming down.”
Lead paint specialist Nigel Gorman says DIY renovators should never remove lead paint themselves.
“A painter going in to do it has to follow the regulations,” Mr Gorman said.
“Neighbours have a case to sue if dust blows on to their property.
“A paint flake the size of a small fingernail, if a kid ingests it, it’s enough for a child to get lead poisoning.
“In houses pre-1970 there’s a potential risk of lead.
“Generally it wouldn’t be the top layer that’ll be lead – it’s the underlying layers.”
Mr Gorman said lead paint should be a bigger concern for governments than asbestos.
“Asbestos isn’t in every home; there’s so many houses and buildings contaminated with lead paint,” he said.
“You don’t know you’ve got lead poisoning, other than through a blood test.”
Home owners can buy a simple, inexpensive test kit to check old paintwork for lead contamination.