Elevated levels of lead found in 3-year-old Portsmouth boy and his PRHA property home

Posted at 8:52 PM, Feb 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-21 22:35:02-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - A Portsmouth mother is pushing to be relocated to a different Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority property after her son's lead test came back with elevated levels.

Irene Cuffee says about six months ago, her 3-year-old son, Isaac, had to get a blood lead test as a requirement for a Head Start school program.

She says his test results came back with 28.7 micrograms of lead in his blood.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, an elevated blood lead level in a child is defined as 10 or more micrograms of lead.

"He's had the 104 fever, the blood in his stools, the constipation, the hallucinations," says Cuffee. "The doctor explained to me, well you have to leave where you're living, because that's the source of where it's coming."

Cuffee lives in a Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority property, Swanson Homes, off of Swanson Parkway.

A few weeks after Isaac's diagnosis, Cuffee says she got in touch with an inspector with the Virginia Beach Health Department, who came out to her home.

Bred Delashmutt, an Environmental Health Supervisor, says Anita Blackwell was the lead inspector who looked at the home. She found elevated levels of lead on the back door, which they sent to PRHA.

Kathy Warren, PRHA Deputy Executive Director, says they sent their own company to verify the findings and they found lead on the top exterior of the back door.

Warren says PRHA encapsulated and repainted the door and informed Blackwell and Cuffee that the door was fixed.

However, Cuffee says their work only fixed part of the home.

She says Isaac mostly played by the front door, where she often caught him eating pieces of chipped paint that had fallen off of the door.

"He played mainly in the front, but this back door is the same exact paint as my front door," says Cuffee. "I asked her several times, can you come back and recheck the front door?"

So far, Cuffee says she has not had any luck in getting an inspector back.

"All I want is to get out of this apartment because it's causing my son to get sicker and sicker and nobody seems to care," she says. "On top of that, other children are playing out here with the same exact paint on their parents thresholds and nobody knows."

NewsChannel 3 will be reaching out to PRHA during their normal business hours to see if they plan to relocate Cuffee and test the other rentals in Swanson Homes.