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"It breaks my heart:" 5-year-old Milwaukee girl suffering from lead poisoning

“It breaks my heart: “ 5-year-old Milwaukee girl suffering from lead poisoning

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- 5-year-old Caleah Boone is suffering from lead poisoning.

In 2016, when she was just 2-years-old her mother Natalie Payne said Caleah’s lead levels climbed to more than 50. The Centers for Disease Control says a level over 5 is cause for concern.

“I was scared,” Payne said. “I was crying. I was like oh my gosh is she going to be ok? How is this going to affect her and her life?”

Payne said Caleah is now cognitively delayed. She said Caleah has trouble focusing, speaking and learning.

“It breaks my heart,” Payne said. “I think about her and I’m like is she going to be able to take care of herself when she’s older? How far is she going to get in life? How is this going to affect her?”

Payne said the City of Milwaukee had Payne’s landlord replace the windows in the apartment. The Health Department says old windows can be a source of lead, along with water pipes and soil.

“You have a lot of lead dust that can come into your unit from windows and deteriorated paint,” Andre Mitchell, Health Department Program Manager, said. “When we go out to properties, we find a lot of lead hazards are in old windows so over the course of time that paint inside begins to deteriorate and once you begin to open and close the dust flows into the property itself. “

Payne and her family have since moved to a new home in Milwaukee, but they are still dealing with lead. Payne said she just found out her new house has lead laterals.

“I definitely feel like there should be more information out there as a whole, more support and resources,” Payne said. “I think there should be laws to prevent renting a lead infested house to a family with children.”

Payne said her two other children also had levels above 5 over the past few years, but nowhere near as high as Caleah’s whose lead level is now around 18. She wants other families dealing with lead to know they are not alone.

“It’s not your fault,” she said. “I felt really guilty like it was something I wasn’t doing right as a mom like I was failing her but it really wasn’t my fault.”

Payne now wants to start a support group for people dealing with lead and dreams of starting a non-profit -committed to helping those afflicted by the health crisis. She started a fundraising page to support her mission.

The Milwaukee Health Department says fixing the lead problem in Milwaukee starts with education.

“We really have been absent as far as lead messaging over the last year or so due to a number of the challenges at the Milwaukee Health Department,” Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee Health Department Commissioner, said

But the Health Department says they are now committed to addressing the lead issues.

“We have public health nurses that go out to families once a child has been identified as having an elevated blood level and there’s certain categories for what prompts different levels of response, and then we have remediation,” Kowalik said.

Friday there will be a special meeting of the Public Safety and Health Committee to discuss lead issues in the City.

In April the Health Department will be holding their first ever Lead-Safe Milwaukee Resource Fair. It will be April 3 from 5:30-7:30 at Bradley Tech High School and April 4 from 5:30-7:30 at North Division High School.

There will be lead testing available for kids and free water filters and lead safe home kits.

If you'd like to donate to Caleah's GoFundMe, click here. 


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