urbanMamas Episode 6: Tamara Rubin
Below is a partial transcript from the urbanMamas Podcast Episode 6 where we welcome Tamara Rubin, Executive Director of the Lead Safe America Foundation and creator of the documentary, MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic. Tamara is a Portland mama to 4 kids, 2 of whom were lead poisoned in 2005.
Links and resources for lead testing your home are available at the bottom of this transcript, as well as how you can help support MisLead and increasing awareness of the prevalence of lead in our schools, homes and environment. Please help this information go viral. Share this post on your Facebook page, email it to your community groups, your daycare, your school, your local legislative office, and help us fill a petition to get 100,000 Portland parents on board with demanding we fund lead clean up in Portland Public Schools.
We’ll start with the Icebreaker Hat
Tamara: "If you had to move out of Portland, where would you go and why?" Well actually I've been having a lot of difficulty with the Portland Public Schools, and the school system keeps referring my son to schools with lead hazards. And since he has medical fragility and has a compromised immune system from being poisoned as a baby, I don't want him to go to a school with lead hazards and his doctors have said he shouldn't go to a school with lead hazards. But the PPS says "Well, all of the kids here are going to schools with lead hazards, so why should your kid be any different?" And so I've been looking desperately for a school without lead hazards, and we've interviewed at several schools. We just found one in Lake Oswego that we, hopefully, may get a transfer to. And if that doesn't work out, I might have to move to L.A. because they have a publicly funded public school that is a safe school for autistic kids on the spectrum, anywhere on the spectrum, from pre-K to early 20s. And is free, but if you live out of district it's a $20,000 a year private school. And it has integrated therapies, like occupational therapy, speech therapy, focused learning for any deficit areas like reading. And it's like a magical school. And so I would go to L.A. and try to find a place to live in the L.A. unified school district so my kids could go to school for free.
R: Let's talk about lead!
K: So, you have this documentary, MisLead, and you've been working on it for awhile now.
T: Yeah, I've heard from other documentary filmmakers that the average documentary gets produced in about 4 years, and some take 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years. And so this is now the beginning of our 4th year, we just hit the 3 year mark in December. I feel bad that aren't getting this message out faster, but also I'm going with the limited funding I've had to work on the film, and we're doing something that I don't know that any other documentary has done, is we're trying to make a feature film that hopefully will be shown in theatres and will have a Hollywood and NY premiere, but we're doing it completely on donations. So over 900 people have donated something, either time or a dollar or $10,000 to help pull this together.
K: $10,000. Good job whoever you are!
T: On the average, most documentaries cost a million dollars in cash, where we have raised about $200-$300,000 in cash, and the rest has been in kind. People have let me sleep on their couches, or they've donated construction to repair somebody's house for the film, or they've donated other resources. So most of our donations for the film have been in kind. But we're at this kind of stuck point, where we need to raise another $70,000 plus in donations.
K: So, it's done. You're in post production, and you're trying to get it to a film level.
T: We need to do picture finishing, sound finishing, and finish getting the music rights, and finish animation, and do some more editing. And we've kind of been stuck in this little space for awhile, and what I've been doing for a little over a year now since we've had a rough cut, is touring the country showing the film to public health departments, community groups, at the New Orleans Museum of Art of all places, City of St Louis, MIT.
K: Did you say 60 screenings this last year?
T: 60 cities, more screenings. And then we were doing those as a fundraiser, right? I thought, oh well people will donate, and I'll come to their city, and I do free lead paint testing, or I give them free test kits, or I give them free toy testing with my X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer that I'm trained and certified in using. And I then speak to the groups after we show the film, and we make a whole day out of it. Well it turns out we weren't actually raising any money, cause we were just covering our costs. But, that's okay, because the film was designed as an outreach effort. And last year we helped more than 16,000 families on a very low budget, and I'd say about -- I haven't done the final numbers -- between 5 and 7,000 of those families have been in the Portland area.
K: The origins of the movie are very very personal.
T: Well I lived in Irvington. We bought our dream house, we thought. It was so beautiful, it had like Monet's garden, and it was on a large lot, and it was a tiny house, one of the smaller houses in Irvington and needed some work. But the inside had all been redone in the 80s. So it was in good condition, it had a brand new kitchen, then in the late 80s, early 90s had been repainted. There wasn't any peeling paint or anything, and then I decided, and actually, this was during the mortgage crisis, and I said, we need to get a better mortgage before things go south. So we talked to a friend who was our mortgage broker and he said well you have to get the house repainted in order to get a better mortgage. So we repainted the house.
K: Inside and out?
T: Just the exterior. And we hired a contractor who told us he was certified in lead safe work practices, and that was in 2005 before the current legislation that now mandates certain practices, and turns out he wasn't certified, we learned later. He used the most dangerous methods possible to remove the lead paint to prepare the house for painting. So he used an open flame torch to burn the paint off to prep the siding. And he, in his bid said, oh this is an amazing thing, we'll strip it down to the bare wood and I'm like, oh wow! You're going to strip it down to the bare wood! There won't be any flakes, there won't be any bubbles. And in the meantime these fumes permeated our home, and my 7 month old son was poisoned and has permanent brain damage as a result.
K: So he's ten now. So how did you notice he was poisoned? And then how did you attribute it to this contractor and the work that he did in your home, and lead?
T: You know, I think we're all, as parents, we all start out kind of as idiots. I mean we learn along the way, right? We don't know things because no one told us. I long for a Native American style of passing on of information. Sitting around the fireplace with your elders and learning what's wrong and what's good and what's safe and what's not. We don't do that anymore. The fireplace is a TV and the really important stuff gets lost. So, my kids were violently ill. And I'm like, oh! They're sick. I didn't think it was because of the lead paint, I had no idea why they were sick.
K: How many kids do you have?
T: I have 4 now, but I had 3 at the time.
R: And all 3 of them?
T: My oldest one was away at camp. So my two little ones, immediately, when the torch burning started.
R: And what were their symptoms?
T: It was like the flu, but without a fever. So they were vomiting, and then they had constipation followed by diarrhea. So they would be constipated for a day and then have explosive diarrhea, and then constipated again. Basically, when lead is absorbed by the body, it decreases the function of lubricating systems, so it makes lung compromised issues, and also causes gastrointestinal issues because the body can't process food. The intestines aren't working right. So I didn't know what was wrong with them. It didn't occur to me that they were poisoned, because the contractor told me he was using lead safe work practices. I didn't know that we had inhaled lead fumes. I knew it smelled bad, I was kinda wary about it, I took the kids out for a walk when it was happening, but not until after we had already smelled it. So they were sick for two months. And the guy was still working on the house. The torch burning and paint removal process took about 3 or 4 days. And the Kaiser doctor, over here on Interstate, kept saying "Oh no, don't worry about it. They don't have a fever, just keep em hydrated. There's nothing wrong with them, don't worry about it." And then one morning, AJ, who was 3, woke up in a pool of feces, like completely covered in shit. When your 3 year old wakes up literally covered in shit, you call the doctor and say "Do everything you can for this kid." And so they ran every kind of test, and everything came back negative. Urine test, blood test, fecal test, physical exams. And the only thing that came back positive was that he tested positive for lead. Except at that time, his level was low. Lower than they had as a concern, cause the level of concern in Oregon was a blood lead level of 15 micrograms per deciliter, and AJ was well below that. And I didn't know anything about lead, because no one had told me about this. I mean I knew I wanted to work lead safe, but I didn't know permanent brain damage, I didn't know gastrointestinal distress, I didn't know what a blood lead level was safe, or that no blood lead level was safe. And so after a couple of days researching on the internet, which was relatively younger, I mean 10 years ago the internet wasn't as comprehensive as it is today. I said, you know what. I want to get the baby tested. I don't care that the baby's only 9 months old, cause this was now 2 months after the incident. I want to get the baby tested just in case. And they said "no no no, you don't need to get your baby tested. We only test babies after they're 1 year old." Basically they haven't tested us for lead becasue we were white and middle income. And all of the public directives are focused on testing low income minorities, kids in WIC, and HeadStart and other public programs, because that's where the federal funding is for testing. So our doctor said no you don't need to test for lead. And I said, no you're going to test my baby.
K: Shouldn't it be based on symptoms?
T: It totally should. It should be based on where you live. Like your kids should be tested because of your house. Because your house was built before 1978, period. There shouldn't be anything else as a consideration. However, the lead industry, I later learned, has actually created this myth that it's only low income and minorities that are affected. Because there's a diminishing of the concern if it's "other" if it's not you, if it's someone else. I'm going all over the place with this, but the interesting thing I've learned is that the majority of Americans, something like 80 or 90% consider themselves middle income. So if you say this is a low income problem, and nobody considers themselves low income even if they only make $20,000 a year and they live in Iowa and live in a house that cost them $40,000, they don't think they're low income, so they don't think it's their problem. So basically you have most of the American population thinking it's not their problem. So back to our story, they tested Avi, our baby. And they called me in the middle of the night and they said "You have to get out of your house immediately, your baby has lead poisoning." He had a blood lead level of 16, which was one point above the threshold. And what I later learned, is that there is a 30-45 day of half-life of lead in the blood, with an acute incidental exposure, so likely, my kids' violent symptoms were consistent with Avi having been a 32 a month before, and a 64 a month before that. And had the doctors tested him immediately upon his symptoms happening, right when they were poisoned, they probably would have hospitalized and chelated him.
K: What is chelated?
T: Chelation is a chemical therapy -- it's dangerous. They do it in the hospital if your kid has a blood lead level over 40, but it pulls minerals out of their body and also pulls lead. And the idea is to prevent seizures and death.
R: Does it work?
T: It works in mobilizing the lead, but the damage that's been done has been done. So it's controversial on many levels. So I don't know what Avi's level initially was. His first level when he was tested was a 16, and I wish he had been tested prior to that. At the time, also WIC wasn't testing children, and I encourage now WIC offices to try to do blood lead level testing, because they're already doing iron testing. The main thing is I don't want people to think I'm like doing the reverse discrimination thing. Basically, this is an everybody problem. And unfortunately federal funding is only focusing on helping low income families, and it needs to be helping everyone. I was just in LA and I met with the director of the department of public health, and I'm like, it's frustrating to me that public health programs are only directed at low income families. It's supposed to be public health, it's everybody. And the nursing and maternity programs, infant health, it's everybody. Even middle and upper income families, those moms still don't have that sitting around the fire, handed down generational information. We're all missing that, and we need that as parents.
T: I figured, okay, the government isn't giving us this information, our doctors aren't giving us this information, we need to share it among ourselves, and we need to educate ourselves, so my goal was to educate every parent in America, and still is, about this issue. Initially I really avoided Portland, I think I mentioned to you before, I couldn't deal with the local repercussions of everyone hating me.
K: Which I don't understand. Why would they hate you for public health awareness issues?
T: Because when you tell them that their house is poisonous, it's really confronting, and upsetting. Cause they can't like, take their house and put it in their trash. The immediate reaction is "Not me. It's not my problem. I'm fine, look it's clean, leave me alone." Because it's really confronting for me to tell you, oh your doors probably have lead, or what the hell are you doing with that picture frame right there?
K: Which picture frame?
T: The one on the bottom. Is that peeling paint on the picture frame?
K: I think so? But it's new. It's only a couple of years old.
T: Okay, but it's not regulated, and it could have lead because it's not an item that's intended for a child and you have it down at child's reach where a baby could touch it, and it's got your child's picture in it, and the aesthetic is that you're framing your child in something that looks like peeling lead paint. Because that's now become shabby chic, and in an effort to make the deterioration that's all around us trendy.
K: But shouldn't they be using non lead based paint?
T: Only in homes.
K: Only in homes, not on consumer goods.
T: Not on consumer goods.
K: Now if you were to be an advocate for say, asbestos removal, nobody would be mad at you for that. Because the public awareness is: asbestos = bad.
T: Yeah, and mesothelioma is a known, quantifiable, specific impact of asbestos. However, lead causes reproductive disorders, kidney disease, heart disease, early onset Alzheimers, ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum symptoms ... the impact of lead is so broad-reaching, that you can't just say "Oh that's the lead disease." Whereas with mesothelioma you can, that's the asbestos disease. And as a result it's been harder to blame something on it, but at the same time, it's like okay wait, it causes all these things, we really need to do something about it."
K: It's a known carcinogen, right?
T: The American Cancer Society must have some funding from the lead industry, I'm speculating here, but ACS specifically says that they don't have any verified independent third party research, whatever, showing that lead causes cancer. And the interesting thing is lead a known immune system suppressant, cancer takes advantage when the immune system is compromised, so 2+2=4 so lead likely causes cancer, but no one's gonna say that.
Kelli's note: the IARC and EPA consider lead to be "probably carcinogenic to humans". source: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/lead
R: You posted the other day about, you had a picture of, I think it was a Strawberry Shortcake glass?
K: Yes! I had that glass!
R: So did I! And I loved that glass, and it was my glass at my grandparent's house, so they still have it, and my kids use it now. And so I saw that and I had all of these feelings of nostalgia and almost this sense of wanting to defend my Strawberry Shortcake glass, but it's kind of mind-boggling to me, because when my kids were small I remember talking to somebody about lead, and somebody who had older children and had been through this, and she was just like "Oh well as long your crib isn't an antique crib and they're not like biting on the rails, you're probably fine. It's not like they're gonna go around chewing the windowsills, they're old enough now." And that was really the extent of my education. My doctor has always done routine testing for lead when he's had the girls do blood work, but never like a whole discussion about it. As soon as I saw that image it was like this flood of how did I not know about this?
K: How many other things?!
R: Yeah. I'm really glad we're recording this podcast in Kelli's house. Because I would be utterly horrified right now.
K: I AM utterly horrified!
T: Let's go back in history. And I'm not talking about racism now, I'm talking about the historical place of racism in our cultural and societal beliefs. So back in the 20s the helpers were black, right? I mean my grandparents had help around the house, and they were African-American. This was a long time ago, 100 years ago or whatever. And so the lead industry made it seem like only low income black people had this problem. So then fast forward almost 100 years and we don't know why we feel shame over our children being poisoned, but most mothers of lead poisoned children feel some shame, but part of this is this cultural association being only a low income, it's their problem, it's the help's problem, we don't get this problem. And all of that's a myth. Everything about it is a myth. And with that myth they also added in, well those kids eat paint chips, which, they didn't. They didn't eat paint chips. It just takes being exposed to a lead painted window being opened and closed a bunch. And the dust that's created and added to your household dust that can poison a child. And they added this, you have to eat paint chips, you have to chew on the side of a crib, but you don't. You just have to live in a home with microscopic trace lead dust from renovation or from deterioration or from general usage of lead painted windows, trim and doors. If you have non-functional windows, that's great, you still want to wipe them down or make sure they've been repainted. But if you have functional original windows, that's enough to poison a kid. And every doctor, don't worry about it! They're not eating paint chips, you don't have to worry. You don't have a kid who has an oral fixation. It doesn't matter, your kid can be poisoned at really high levels, just from the dust in the home. And it doesn't matter what your economic status is, what your racial or ethnic background is, it's an every body problem.
K: And the risks are more substantial the younger the child, correct?
T: That's also a bit of a myth. It depends on what you consider substantial. I mean is erectile dysfunction and an inability to conceive a child, worse or not quite as bad as permanent brain damage. Ya know, is kidney and heart failure in an adult who has been exposed, worse or better than brain damage. I mean, yeah, brain damage is pretty bad, and we all have some amount of lead in our systems. I have not been able to get a tattoo because I have not been able to find a tattoo artist in Portland with lead-free ink.
R: I'm fucked.
K: There goes my plans.
T: I didn't dye my hair for almost ten years because a lot of the hair dyes have lead. I mean we have lead in our system, why aren't we all walking around crippled? Well, we are. I mean we have arthritis, we have thyroid disorders, we have inability to conceive ...
K: It's things that we just take for granted as part of the human condition.
T: Oh we're American, every American has some sort of health problem. We have prostate issues, all these other things, and really, it all ties back to environmental toxicity and our overall burden, if we look at us compared to people 150 years ago prior to the industrial revolution, they were a lot healthier than us. And lead started being mined in quantity and released into the air and used in everyday products at a home level. Dr. Leonardo Trasande with the NYU school of medicine, he's a pediatrician, he's in my film, he re-did the Landrigan Report in 2011 that showed that the total cost of environmental toxicity and the impact on children was 76.6 billion dollars annually. And this was remediation, like immediate interventions, this didn't talk about cleaning up houses, this didn't talk about long term effects. It talked about IQ loss and the impact on income potential of the children, but that's the only long term impact. So if you had mercury poisoning, what did it cost to treat the mercury poisoning and how did that impact the child's earning potential. In that study, the 76.6 billion, 50.9 billion of that was lead. And the other 25 billion was all the other toxins. So still today, lead poisoning and the impacts of lead exposure make up more than 2/3 of the impact of all environmental toxicity on our children and our society. So you put everything else isn't even half as much as lead. BPA, mercury, you name it, all that together.
K: And I mean, BPA, you can't talk to a mom now who doesn't know about it because of the consumer awareness campaigns that have been out there and embraced by so many companies, Klean Kanteen, all of the big reusable bottle companies, they're all behind it. So where are the brands that are supporting lead poisoning awareness?
T: They're not. The interesting thing is there's a few brands out there that are trying to make lead free products and labeling their products as lead free, which they may or may not be, and trying to capitalize on that. But still, the lead industry is a hugely profitable industry. I think they posted record profits last year. They're not gone. They're in every car battery. Lead is huge. And they still have extreme significant power in trying to suppress the information about this issue. The lead industry suppression of this information is so profound that people don't want to think of their homes as toxic. It's just too confronting. However, like you said, they're willing to think of their Strawberry Shortcake glass as toxic. It's easy to say "Oh my gosh this Strawberry Shortcake glass has lead! I'm gonna throw it out." That's an easy thing to do. So what I've done is I've taken advantage of this concern that comes up in that way and I've found products that everyone has in their home that have lead.
T: Everything. I mean dishes, and toys, and personal care items, and toothpaste, earth paste, picture frames, furniture, rugs, everything.
(Kelli: She's saying all this as she's glancing around my home, top to bottom. I suddenly feel a need to invest in a hazmat suit for everyone in the household, including the cat.)
T: So all these things I find when I test them and they test positive for lead, I post the picture on my FB page, I post the lead reading, and I don't give information with that. I say, this tests positive, these are the levels. I'm not saying this Strawberry Shortcake glass is going to poison you, cause I don't know. It may not. It may not be wearing at all, it may have been very well cared for, but really do you want one of the most hazardous neurotoxins on the cup you're giving to your child every day? By focusing on products with lead I've been able to raise awareness about the concern for lead in our homes as well.
K: You posted a picture the other day of a box of gingerbread something from Trader Joe's. And so I was stunned, two-fold. Because first of all, there's lead in gingerbread mix at Trader Joe's?! And second, they had a sign posted that says "this contains lead" and it's known dangers. So they know about it, yet they still have it on the shelves. Why, first of all, would anybody in their right mind buy something that says on the shelf "Hey! This contains lead and it's really bad for you."
R: And why is there lead in our food?!
K: And why are we selling it?
T: There's a whole movement organic and homesteading and canning and those are all good things. The reason there's lead in our food is because of the manufacturing processes, and because there's so many steps along the way in terms of sourcing ingredients and shipping ingredients. Chocolate is one of the food items with the highest lead levels and that's because it's one of the most processed food items. There's potentially lead in the gasoline on the farms, there's potentially lead in the bag that transport the beans, there's potentially lead in the containers that are on the ships, and then the ships themselves. The main reason that there's lead in our food, and I'm using chocolate cause it's a high lead product as well, when you buy something that's been ground, it's ground on a machine. So flour, or chocolate, whatever, anything that has to be ground up. Well the machines have parts that move, and those parts often need to be replaced. If those parts are in a third world country, even if it's some organic farm and they're trying to use sustainable practices, but they're sourcing it using machines that have been in the family for generations, they have leaded nuts and bolts, and those are the bolts that wear, because lead is soft, and that lead wears into the food product as it's being manufactured, and then those components need to be replaced. And that's one reason to consider buying from companies that actually manufacture in America with American standard for kitchen and manufacturing equipment that's all stainless steel, won't have toxic components. It doesn't guarantee that, but it's one way to go about it.
T: And so ginger, I don't know with the ginger pancake mix, I was horrified about Trader Joe's. I haven't shopped at Trader Joe's since then. Trader Joe's, how can you even sell this product?!
R: You'd think that they'd have pulled it.
K: They're normally so good about that. Almonds being yanked for potential salmonella, they pull it right away. Salmonella we all run screaming, oh my god oh my god! Why aren't we doing that with lead?
T: That's why the name of the film is MisLead: America's Secret Epidemic. There's a complete -- people glaze over. There's a lack of awareness that it's not inherentt in our culture to be afraid or concerned about this. Yet, we wonder about the rates of autism and ADD and ADHD, and one of the main impacts of lead is frontal lobe impairments that cause these things. My son, Avi, who's 10, has 130 IQ, so that's one point shy of mensa. But he can't read. He's just learning to read, he's doing great actually. He's just learning to read signs and things, which is so cool. But like by the time my oldest son was 10 he was done with all the Harry Potter books and on to whatever the next thing was. But Avi's visual memory is in the 4th percentile. So in reading you have to remember letters, and then you have to remember the sounds of the letters, and then you have to remember the sounds of the letters, and then you have to remember what letter came before the letter you're looking at. Well if you don't remember the letter before, you can't read.
K: K, this is super silly. But it reminds me of the movie with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler.
K: 50 First Dates, totally normal, beautiful, happy, intelligent person ...
T: Who has a brain injury! And lead poisoning causes a brain injury and the brain injury is very similar to the brain injury Drew Barrymore had, except she had short term memory loss, very similar. His short term memory is in the 4th percentile. Visual. There's visual and verbal. His verbal memory is awesome though.
K: So explain to me verbal memory then.
T: He can hum the entire symphonic version of the theme song from Superman or Harry Potter. He will hum the whole thing. He remembers every single note, completely on pitch. You tell him a story, he'll remember the story word for word.
K: So do you do a lot of audio books.
T: We try.
K: You're doing a screening this Tuesday.
T: At my office, my office is in the old funeral home across from the movie theatre in Westmoreland, upstairs above Relish restaurant. We only have room for 8-12 people, cozy, in my office. While, yes, we're doing this on Tuesday at my office if anybody else wants to get a group of 8 people together to come to my office to watch the film, you know we'll provide wine and snacks, and unfortunately I discourage people bringing kiddos, cause it's serious. You really need to focus, and I want to be there to answer your questions. So if you can find childcare that'd be lovely. And we're looking at trying to find another theatrical space. These are preview screenings, because the film's not done yet. I forget if I said this already, the most exciting thing was out of these 900 people that have donated something to The Lead Safe America Foundation to make this film possible, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry, The Who, donated music.
screaming and high fiving ensue because THAT’S AMAZING!
T: Yeah, so that was super cool. I've been emailing all these musicians and finding out who will donate their songs and we scored this really amazing piece too, Behind Blue Eyes, because Avi has blue eyes. It's really stunning. When I emailed Pete and Roger through their agent, Roger got back to me (through his agent) and said "Hey, are you aware of lead poisoning in dock workers? Because of the refinishing and painting of the boats, do you know about chemical chelation for dock workers?" And I said yeah, actually. We mention that briefly in the film. And that is a concern. So he personally was connected because he grew up in the docks. The whole lead poisoning really resonated with him.
R: In order to see the film, before it's released in theatres internationally, to host a screening, you kind of briefly touched on this, what do you need to do if you want to host a screening for your mama friends?
T: Well, so the one thing I can't do, is I can't sell tickets. As a fundraiser, but we're hoping to generate funds to finish the film. We can host a screening at your house, and I'll come and I'll show the film, we'd ideally ask people to support the project. I will also bring free lead paint test kits, and I can sometimes bring my XRF and test your dishes and stuff like that. I also do Healthy Home visits, where I look at your home that I think are not good. That's one way. We can either do it at my office or we can do it at your home. And if we're gonna do an event at someone's home, I ask that they have at least 8 guests, so that, it's not a financial consideration, it's a let's spread the word, what's the 100th monkey, how many people can we reach when we reach 8 people. We reach a lot more. It's more fun and a better conversation as well when we have more guests.
T: I am still 100% volunteer. I haven't gotten paid, working 4 years without getting paid. It's been really difficult.
K: You've earned some amazing awards, but awards don't pay the bills.
T: No, they don't. I'm the National Healthy Homes Hero, I won that award from a consortium of federal agencies, the EPA, CPC, HUD, USDA, US Dept of Energy. Then last year at the National Healthy Homes conference my work with the foundation and our volunteers and our board of directors we won best outreach campaign for the entire country for our work helping families. Yes, I haven't paid this month's office rent. And you know, we would really love to have an angel come in and save the day.
Here's how you can be an angel: DONATE HERE (easiest angeling ever)
T: The big thing, that I'd like to say, because I know people in Portland know people, is, what I really want to do is get a celebrity involved with the cause. A celebrity mom or dad. Adam Sandler would be kind of a fun one, or Reese Witherspoon, somebody knows somebody that is very high profile that might be interested in having the National Healthy Homes Hero come to their home, and meet with them and talk to them about environmental toxicity, and then record a little bit of that. I mean really, an hour we could do something, and then create a little PSA. Because having someone like that say "OH my god I had no idea" and look your crystal glass is 300,000 parts per million lead, that would reach people.
K: Right, and elevate the understanding that this is not an issue of poverty.
T: Yeah. And if anybody knows Phil Knight, I'd like to go to his house and show him the film and test his crystal. Who else?
K: Cheryl Strayed is here.
T: Oh yeah! Totally, I'd love to meet her. I emailed her, cause she knows Reese (hahahaha).
R: We do this thing at the end of our podcast, we do a fist shake or high five.
K: Something like recently that you're like RAWWWWR or YEAHHHH.
T: The RAWWWWR thing, something I'm really pissed off about, that pretty much every PPS has lead hazards and none of you guys are concerned about it.
K: I am now.
T: We need to mobilize on this. We can write local legislation for the City of Portland that mandates funding of the remediation of these hazards in schools for our kids. I tested the paint at Llewellyn school. The exterior paint that's considered a hazard is 5,000 per million lead. Llewellyn school had peeling, chipping lead paint on windows that were open and had access to the classrooms, it was 185,000 per million lead. And that's not just Llewellyn. It's all the other schools too. All of these older public schools have lead hazards in the window trim, the doorways, the floors, the lockers, and they're accessible to children, and nobody seems to care about it.
K: So what can we do, as a parent, and I'm just gonna go ahead and jump in and say k, that's my fist shake too.
R: yeah, I'm in that.
K: Like for my kids, in the school across the street, what can I do? I can go in and say hey I'm concerned about the levels of lead in this school, is there anything I can do?
T: Let's start a petition. We'll start it today (here it is! Hurry, go sign it and send it on!). I don't know, Clean Up Lead Hazards in PPS, okay? And everyone sign it and share it with their friends. And we'll email the school district attorney, we'll email the school district the head of facilities, we'll email the head of the PPS system. Can we get 100,000 signatures on this? And show it to the mayor and say, okay, you've been ignoring this.
T: And if you want a free lead paint test kit, just ask me. We don't have money for postage all the time, so if you can donate for postage I'll mail one to you. Or you can swing by the office, it's 6637 SE Milwaukie, Suite 203, upstairs. We have kind of intermittent hours. So it's good to text me, 415-609-3182 (yes I moved here from the Bay Area 13 years ago) to ask me if I'm gonna be in the office. These paint kits are the ones that sell at Home Depot for $14.99 each, and we give them away for free. Then go test your school. Use that to test your school.
R: You blow my mind. I don't know how you do it. You've got this huge passion, obviously, but then you're like actually moving mountains, and making shit happen, and then you have 4 kids and you're looking at schools and possibly moving. You made a movie!
T: And I'm a low income mom. I'm on food stamps. My house is in foreclosure, and I haven't had a salary in 4 years. So, you guys, anyone can do it. You gotta make some sacrifices, you eat a lot of rice and beans and oatmeal, but you know, some things are sacrificing for.
K: Thank you.
R: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I feel like it's moms like you that you're covering the bases that I didn't know about, and I wasn't aware of, and like you're holding up that part of my family too, and we're all in it together. We're all trying to take care of each other's kids for whatever passions we have, and I appreciate you taking this one.
T: I'm crying.
I think we were all crying by this point.
R: People need to do something about this. This has to change. Thank you for everything you've done.
Tamara has created an online petition to clean up the existing lead hazards at all pre-1978 Portland Public Schools. Please sign and share.