Homemade Poison - Notre Dame health experts respond to lead crisis

Author: Brendan O'Shaughnessy

Brittany Griffith and her husband, David, believed that buying their first house on the near northwest side of South Bend in 2012 marked a huge step toward the American dream.

“We didn’t mind the area because we were college students, young and progressive,” she said. “The house was quaint and small and well taken care of by an older couple who bought it in the ’40s.”

Four years later, that idyllic vision curdled. A blood test revealed the Griffiths’ 2-year-old son Atticus had elevated levels of lead in his system, which can lead to serious cognitive, developmental and behavioral problems in children, ranging from hyperactivity to lower IQ. They have since learned that they live in a home and neighborhood with the highest levels of lead poisoning in Indiana.

“Nobody thinks when they buy a house that it’s going to hurt you,” she said. “It’s scary that we’re living with a neurotoxin on the inside and out. It was so easy to buy the house, but now we’re deep in a well scraping to get out.”

Griffith said Atticus hasn’t reached normal milestones for his age. Despite nearing his third birthday, he doesn’t speak words beyond “mama” or show interest in solid foods. He’s had so much blood drawn for tests that he has a meltdown if he thinks they’re in a doctor’s office. She knows the problems can cascade into educational and behavioral challenges that last a lifetime.

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