BELLOWS FALLS -- The owner of a Canal Street property has until the first day of September to rectify a problem of deteriorated lead-based paint, which has allegedly resulted in an abnormally high level of lead in the blood of a young boy who lives there.
According to a health report by Zoning-Planning Administrator and Rockingham Health Officer Ellen Howard, there is more than one square foot of peeling and deteriorated paint in the interior of the apartment and the common stairwell of Floyd LaFoe’s 50 Canal St. residence. Another square foot of paint, Howard reported, is peeling or deteriorated on the building’s exterior surfaces, including the window and house trim.
Joanne Davis told the Reformer her 2-year-old grandson, who lives in the apartment with his mother and a sibling, has an elevated amount of lead in his blood because of these problems. Davis said the boy was recently driven to Springfield, where his blood was tested. She said her grandson’s blood had a lead content of 15 micrograms per deciliter.
According to Ron Rupp, director of the Lead Hazard Reduction Program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, the blood lead level of concern was recently lowered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5.
According to Howard’s report, the property is not current with the Essential Maintenance Certification and LaFoe must bring all paint
Davis, who has two daughters and three grandchildren living in the building, said LaFoe told the child’s mother earlier this month that she and her children should move out within 30 days because he can’t afford to fix the paint issues.
The phone number listed for LaFoe in the phone book was no longer in service.
Michelle Pong, with Lead Safe & Healthy Homes, said the mother has contacted the non-profit, which is attempting to help her. Pong said she is trying to track down one of the non-profit’s high-efficiency particulate air vacuum cleaners to get rid of the deteriorated paint.
She said the blood level content in the woman’s son requires urgent attention and will likely trigger a state investigation. The boy’s mother did not return calls seeking comment.
Rupp said lead-based paint, which was banned in 1978, is the leading cause of lead poisoning and can cause severe physical, neurological and behavioral problems. He said the paint is generally not a major problem unless it is in bad shape.
He said side effects can include poor decision-making, a permanent loss of IQ points and bone problems later in life. Rupp, who has been with the Lead Hazard Reduction Program for 18 years, also said a lot of research shows that many people who routinely enter the prison system have a high blood lead content and were more exposed to lead as a child. One in 10 babies has a blood level content of more than five micrograms per deciliter.
Rupp said children 6 years or younger are the most susceptible and state and federal governments have for the past 20 years pushed hard to eliminate lead paint problems.
"Vermont has a lot of old buildings," he said. "What makes lead poisoning so insidious is that there are no obvious symptoms."
Rupp advises all people living or working somewhere painted before 1978 to make sure the paint remains in good condition and to remember a lot of lead poisoning is caused by hand-to-mouth behavior.
In addition to the deteriorated lead paint, Howard found other problems with the Canal Street property.
She noted the vinyl floor is ripped and missing in some places, exposing the sub-floor. She reported the pantry floor is wood with gaps between the floor boards. There are also open shelves in the pantry and no counters in the kitchen.
According to Howard’s report, Vermont Rental Housing Health Code requires every dwelling unit to have space to store, prepare and serve food in a sanitary manner. The health code also makes it mandatory for all floor surfaces in the kitchen of dwelling units and rooming houses to be smooth, noncorrosive, nonabsorbent and have waterproof covering.
The report says LaFoe had 45 days from the time the report was drafted to fix the problems.
Howard also reported on the bathroom and windows. According to the report, the bathroom is not within the unit -- and tenants must walk to the common staircase to utilize it. The health code requires each unit to have a flush toilet, sink and bathtub or shower in a room or rooms that is separate from the other rooms and provides privacy. LaFoe was given 60 days to rectify the situation.
Howard also reported that the windows in the northeast corner room and the bathroom window do not open, as required by the health code.
The reports states the health code requires every habitable room to include at least one window or door in good shape on an outside wall and be able to open to let in fresh air.
"Further, screens shall be provided for all operable windows and for doors that are providing ventilation when a window is not available," Howard wrote. "All screens shall be maintained in good repair and be free from tears, holes, or other imperfections of either screen or frame that would admit insects such as flies or mosquitoes. All hallways and stairways in common spaces shall be adequately ventilated."
This problems with the windows and ventilation must be fixed within 45 days of the report’s issuance.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.