Attorneys Grant Riley and Victoria Ersoff were featured on The Balancing Act in a story covering the dangers of childhood lead poisoning resulting from substandard and slum housing. Watch the video below:
Host (Olga Villaverde): When we think of safety hazards in our homes, it’s generally the usual suspects: sharp objects we leave around the stairs that a toddler could tumble down. But what about those invisible threats that could be poisoning us, and we don’t even realize it. Join us to talk about the dangers of lead poisoning and other toxins we may be living with are Grant Riley and Victoria Ersoff from the law firm of Riley | Ersoff. Welcome to the show.
Grant and Victoria: Thank you for having us.
Host: Thank you for being here. So much to get to. Grant, I wanted to first talk about your law firm. I was reading here that you handle different types of toxic substances that people have been exposed to. You don’t hear a lot about this, so tell me a little bit more.
Grant: Well, we are a law firm in Los Angeles and what we focus on, what Vic and I have been doing for a long time as lawyers, is representing families and children that are exposed to toxic chemicals: lead poisoning, carbon monoxide poisoning, other dangers from sub-standard and slum housing. And that typically happens with older homes, where the owner landlords failed to make repairs.
Victoria: What people don’t realize is, virtually all apartments and homes that were built before 1978 contain lead-based paint.
Host: And people are unaware of that? And who’s going to walk in as a renter, look around and look at the walls? Nobody is going to know, right?
Grant: The only thing a tenant wants to care about is how much is rent and when is the rent paid? But what they don’t know is that in older homes, lead paint can deteriorate, can distribute lead dust around, and you know children put everything in their mouths: toys, their hands, pacifiers, you name it. If there’s even microscopic amounts, unseeable amounts of lead dust on those toys or the pacifier, a child can have lead enter their brain and they have permanent neurological harm.
Host: I was gonna ask you that Victoria. What are the long-term effects? And I’m actually scared to ask.
Victoria: The effects are devastating. Lead-based paint is more dangerous to children than adults. In fact, once lead enters the body, it’s stored in the brains, the bones, and the tissue for up to twenty years, and that’s because children process lead differently than adults.
Host: So what can parents do? How preventable can this be? Any options?
Grant: What’s amazing, and what everyone needs to know is that lead poisoning is one hundred percent preventable. And that’s what makes lead poisoning cases even that much more of a heartbreak. Because all a landlord has to do is inspect and monitor the rental property. And [inspect the] paint, and make repairs, and make sure they don’t make the problem worse by distributing even more lead dust. But many of them don’t. And that’s what ends up happening. The parents call us. They’re in anguish. They don’t know what to do because their child has an elevated blood lead level. And the sad thing is, there’s no medicine and no pill that can fix lead poisoning.
Host: I was going to say at that point, it’s probably too late, which is devastating.
Grant: Once the damage is done, it’s done.
Victoria: And the key is to prevent lead poisoning before it occurs. Parents need to be vocal if they see a problem, any problem in their rental home, they need to speak up. They need to contact their lawyer, send a letter, and demand something be done. And if the landlord ignores them, then they can call their local health department or the housing department. They can go online and make a complaint. And also, they need to take care of their children. If the floor contains paint chips, or paint dust, they need to wash their children’s hands, wash the floor, and just take care of the problems in the home. But remember, it’s not the tenant’s responsibility to take care of the home. It’s one hundred percent the landlord’s responsibility.
Host: This is creating awareness. I wasn’t even aware of this. Do you think, Grant, the CDC and other health agencies are doing enough to let people know?
Grant: We’d always love them to do more in the field of public health. But actually, I think they’re doing as well as they can. There’s a lot of information available on the web. The CDC and the EPA websites are great for [providing information to] parents and landlords. But again, if a landlord doesn’t want to make repairs, doesn’t want to follow the law, the tenant becomes the victim. And an innocent child becomes the victim. And we get calls literally every week from parents who are distraught over their childrens’ health and are worried about their childrens future. And so what we do is we work hard to force landlords to make repairs. And then we get these families the compensation they deserve. Compensation that helps these families get educational interventions [and] behavioral therapy for their kids.
Host: If anyone out there is facing this or knows of someone, where can they go to learn more about Riley | Ersoff and maybe get a consultation?
Victoria: They can go to rileyersoff.com. We are here to help.
Host: Thank you so much and I’m really glad we talked about this today. I appreciate your time.
For additional information, please visit our lead poisoning page here.