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Family claims sickness from lead

admin | 3/1/2012, 4:30 a.m.

Files suit against County for poisoning

It was almost one year ago when officials first admitted that traces of lead had been discovered at Olinda Park in Liberty City. The park has since been closed to the public and many have followed recommendations to have their children and themselves tested for lead poisoning. It is unclear how many have been impacted but one family recently initiated legal action against Miami-Dade County. Alex Hargrove, 39 and Sonia Merritt, 37, on behalf of their five children, have notified the County of their intent to sue. The best outcome for my clients would be that they get medical treatment and the County pays for their medical and monitoring in the future, Clyne said. Each member of the family is dealing with different ailments. The headaches and the seizures bother me the most and have also affected my ability to work, Hargrove said. I have to list on every job application that I am going through these things. I have been having headaches, miscarriages and pains, Merritt said. I feel bad because two of our children have developed learning disabilities as well. Those untested should seek medical attention After traces of lead contamination were found at the park, the Miami-Dade County Health Department(M-DCHD) began to test citizens that lived in the area. Lead poisoning, also known as plumbism, is a medical condition caused by increased levels of the heavy metal lead in the body. We operated the free testing clinic for about three weeks after the discovery was made, said Dr. Vincent Conte, 53, deputy director of epidemiology, disease control and immunization services, M-DCHD. We opened up the clinic at the Jessie Trice Community Health Center and we staffed it with health department employees that canvassed the neighborhood within a two-mile radius. He added that symptoms like sleepiness, irritability, lack of energy or hyperactivity are some possible tell-tale signs of lead poisoning. Some 7,000 flyers in English, Creole and Spanish were distributed to announce the free testing. Initially we tested several hundred children and about 18 or 19 adults, Conte said. As numbers dwindled and we moved downtown, we made staff available for testing only one-day a week for the next three or four months. We still provide this service. You can detect lead in either blood or urine but a blood test blood is the most common way to do it, said Dr. Jeff Bernstein, 61, medical director, Florida Poison Information Center at Miami. We check most school-age children. How do I know if I am infected? While lead poisoning can have varying affects on a person depending on the amount to which they have been exposed, doctors agree that testing is the first means of defense. Children are at higher risk because they play in the dirt, pick things up off the floor and put items in their mouths, Conte said. By Randy Gricergrice@miamitimesonline.com