Friday, January 22, 1999

Family's dream house became nightmare

Mother tells forum: 'Our children are sick'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The horrors of lead poisoning came home to Jaime and Liz Nunez after they bought their century-old $79,000 “dream house” on South Wayne Avenue in Lockland.

        Within weeks, a hellish descent into anxiety and financial straits began.

        “Our children are sick,” Mrs. Nunez told an environmental health forum Wednesday at the Museum Center.

        In mid-1997, a pediatrician doing a routine checkup found five times the allowable maximum level of lead in the blood of 9-month-old Caleb.

        Like amounts were found in the blood of his 22-month-old brother, Jacob.

        Both boys spent a week in Children's Hospital Medical Center and have had repeated outpatient treatments as lead leached from their bones into their bloodstreams.

        The family moved into a hotel but learned a licensed lead-removal contractor wanted $40,000 to cure the problem.

        Instead, they tried to remove the lead paint themselves, straining their finances and marriage, Mrs. Nunez said.

        Overwhelmed by the task, they sold the house, complying with the federal rules about revealing lead problems, attorney Jeffrey S. Goldenberg said.

        The family now lives in Hartwell.

        Caleb may have come through unscathed, Mrs. Nunez said, “but my 3-year-old falls down a lot” and his speech is retarded.

        Both boys will require continued monitoring and possibly further lead detoxification treatments.

        The family has sued Realtors who handled the sale and the former owner of the house.

        The complaint, filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court by Mr. Goldenberg and co-counsel John C. Murdock, says agents and the seller failed to provide the federally mandated lead-hazard information pamphlet before the couple signed the purchase contract.

        The suit says one Realtor was so eager to close the sale that she “knowingly and intentionally skirted the requirements” of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act.

        The family also sued the maker and seller of the home test kit that they say failed to identify lead problems.

        Mrs. Nunez said she followed directions and the test indicated there was no lead hazard.


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