The effect of lead exposure in children has been a national health concern for decades. There is no known level of lead in the blood that is considered safe for children. Lead exposure is associated with a number of conditions in children, including poor academic achievement and impaired focus. Because the consequences of lead exposure cannot be reversed, children should be shielded from contact with lead entirely.

The Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority (“PRHA”) in Virginia Beach now faces allegations that its facility, Swanson Homes, contained lead paint that caused serious health conditions for at least one tenant in the development. Irene Cuffee claims that her toddler, Isaac, contracted lead poisoning after eating paint chips from the floor in her unit at Swanson Homes. The 3-year-old child developed various symptoms including hallucinations, bloody stools, constipation, and high fever. The lead presence was detected in September 2015 after Mrs. Cuffee’s son’s blood was tested in conjunction with a Head Start school program. The results indicated 28.7 micrograms of lead in his blood, which represents a significant increase over the allowable limit. Under state law, lead levels in children that exceed 10 micrograms must be investigated by authorities.

In 2016, after the tenant received a diagnosis of lead poisoning, an inspector at the Virginia Beach Health Department examined the apartment and confirmed the presence of elevated levels of lead on the back door. These findings were corroborated by a separate inspector retained by PRHA. As a result, the family was relocated to Kings Square, a newer complex in the PRHA development. The housing authority maintained that it remedied the problem by removing old paint and performing lead tests inside Swanson homes, which is one of the PRHA’s oldest public housing facilities.

Swanson Homes was built in 1941, more than three decades before the United States’ ban on lead-based paint went into effect. Houses and apartments built before 1978 are likely to contain lead-based paint on walls, woodwork, and other areas of the home. The deterioration of lead-based paint is a significant safety and health concern for children living in homes constructed prior to this ban. The majority of lead poisoning cases in children occur because of ingestion of deteriorating lead-based paint and contact with lead dust on the hands. Therefore, infants and young children are the most vulnerable to lead exposure. In addition to being more likely to ingest lead, young children are also known to absorb lead more easily than older children and adults.

Aside from their increased risk of lead exposure, children are also more susceptible to long-term damage associated with even low levels of exposure. Excessive levels of lead in the body can cause impaired cognitive development which manifests in a variety of ways. This can include developmental delays, learning impairments, irritability, and inattention. At higher levels of exposure, children and adults can suffer permanent damage to their kidneys and nervous systems. If exposure levels are significant, seizures and unconsciousness can result.

The lead poisoning attorneys at Levy Konigsberg LLP handle lead poisoning cases nationwide. We can help you obtain the compensation you and your children deserve. We have recovered over $100 million in verdicts and settlements and are an advocate for all lead poisoned victims, including cases in Portsmouth public housing development. Call us today at 1-800-988-8005 for a free and confidential evaluation.


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