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Lawsuit Says Boy Exposed To Lead

Mother claims county, landlord and service agency knew about the hazards

Jun 20, 2003 | The Post-Standard Donald Logan, 10, kicks and bites classmates. He repeated the third grade.

At home, his younger brother, Brandon, 8, is often the victim of Donald's violent outbursts.

"He's a good kid, but he has a lot of problems," said Tina Logan, his mother.

Donald's problems stem from exposure to lead over a four-year period beginning in 1994, according to a lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court Thursday.

Onondaga County health

officials knew about the lead hazards making the little boy sick, Danziger contends in the suit. So did the landlord of the rental property where Donald and his family lived, he said. So did officials at a Head Start program he attended where lead lurked in the peeling paint, he said.

"Unfortunately, Donald is typical of many of the children we represent," Danziger said. "He will suffer for the rest of his life as a result of the failure of this landlord and the county of Onondaga to protect him from lead poisoning."

County officials had not seen the lawsuit as of Thursday afternoon and could not comment, said Martin Farrell, a spokesman for Onondaga County Executive Nicholas Pirro, and Karen Bleskoski, a deputy county attorney.

Donald H. and Frances Smith could not be reached for comment. The Rev. Laurence Kennedy of St. Brigid and St. Joseph declined comment.

Joseph O'Hara, who became executive director of P.E.A.C.E. Inc. in November 2001, said he hadn't seen the lawsuit.

"Obviously, the children we serve there, their safety is our first priority," O'Hara said about the Head Start program.

O'Hara planned to look into the issue, he said.

Donald's problems started in August 1996 when the Logan family moved into 201 Lakeview Ave., Danziger said. He was a healthy 3-year-old at the time. Fourteen months later, a blood test found Donald had 40 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood coursing through his body.

The federalgovernment considers anything a level of 10 micrograms or more to be dangerous.

Lead is a toxin that can cause irreversible damage to young children. The heavy metal can lead to reduced attention span, hyperactivity, emotional disturbances and poor academic performance. The poison damages the central nervous system, brain, kidneys and reproductive systems.

Leaded paint is generally found in old homes and buildings. The danger comes when that paint deteriorates, flakes or peels. The old paint turns into a lead-filled dust that covers toys, furniture and the ground where children crawl. Children's hands filled with this dust find a way into their mouths.

The Logans and Smiths made repairs. The county told the family it was OK to stay in the home while the repairs were made.

Meanwhile, county health officials failed to inspect the St. Brigid and St. Joseph's Head Start even though the Logans told them Donald spent a significant amount of time there.

In November 1997, the county declared the Logans' apartment safe. But the lead in Donald's blood remained high.

On March 3, 1998, Syracuse officials inspected the Logan apartment and found chipping and peeling paint, Danziger said. Eight days later, county officials found lead hazards at the church where Donald attended Head Start.

In ensuing months, both city and county officials inspected the Lakeview Avenue home several times and found lead hazards in 20 places, he said.

In July 1998, the officials again declared the property safe, he said.

The city's lead abatement program awarded the Smiths a $8,650 grant in February 1999 to make permanent repairs to the home.

Yet, Donald's lead levels continued to be elevated for more than three years. And county officials never re-inspected the Lakeview Avenue apartment, Danziger said.

The family moved out of the apartment in March 2002. They had not moved sooner because they were told the apartment was safe, Danziger said.

Many people haven't had the experience of a lead poisoned child, so it's hard for them to understand, Logan said.

Logan said she hopes the lawsuit raises awareness about the dangers of childhood lead poisoning.

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