From Pure Facts, September 2003
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A mother's search
for answers

Children can be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals, even in their own homes.
One mom used the knowledge she had gained from the Feingold Program
to uncover additional problems that threatened her family.

Who would have thought that the children's favorite play space was making them sick?

Gayla Prewitt could not understand why her three-year-old daughter's mood would change so dramatically. It wasn't until Gracie was in third grade that Gayla learned of the Feingold Program from a friend who had used it many years ago. She found an early version of the Feingold Handbook in her library and the list of symptoms was a real eye-opener. At age 8 1/2 Gracie's handwriting was so poor her teacher had difficulty deciphering it, and she struggled with reading. As the family stayed on the Feingold Program, things changed. Gracie would go on to win an award for her beautiful handwriting, and by the beginning of her fifth grade year, her reading skills tested out at college level!

Things went well for the Prewitt family ... for awhile. Gracie's little brother, Isaac, had been on the Feingold Program nearly since birth. Then, shortly before his third birthday his normally sweet personality began to change. He would become angry for no reason, had a lot of trouble sleeping, suffered from leg aches and intestinal problems, and was tired all the time. Isaac, and to some degree his little brother Isaiah, seemed to be chronically sick. Simple colds turned into infections.

Once again, Gayla searched for answers. She says, "I feel that being a part of the Feingold Association gave me the knowledge to look for physical causes when a child's behavior changes." She believed the cause was allergies and found a doctor who specializes in allergies and environmental illness. A test for heavy metals brought the shocking answer: Isaac's body levels were off the charts for metals such as aluminum, antimony and arsenic and his brother's results were not much lower. The family's well water tested out clean but the wood on their porch (where the boys often played) did not. Gayla reports, "All of the poisons were found in the wood, with 2600 parts per million of arsenic and lesser amounts of the other metals. The doctor also found the children are low in vitamin C and glutathione, two important antioxidants, and that their livers are stressed.

Arsenic is a silent, pervasive killer. "In two weeks, an average 5-year-old playing on an arsenic-treated play set would exceed the lifetime cancer risk considered acceptable under federal pesticide law," according to Renee Sharp of the Environmental Working Group.
At about the time Gayla began to question the lumber in their porch, Pure Facts carried an article about the use of chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, as a preservative in lumber. The arsenic and other toxins in it are very hard on our bodies. They block the absorption of the needed vitamins and minerals and they use up what supplies we already have. The Prewitts have town down the porch and the children are receiving treatments to remove the harmful substances, especially arsenic. Gayla has already seen a huge improvement and has her sweet little Isaac back. But she is concerned about the other families who are dealing with the silent, pervasive effects of arsenic exposure. It doesn't cause fast, dramatic symptoms; it just quietly accumulates in the body and taxes the organs so the child slowly deteriorates.

Even though most residential uses of CCA will soon be discontinued [this was written in 2003], there are countless porches, decks, and playground equipment made with tainted wood, and children who are exposed to it will be harmed.

Gayla reports, "We are working to detoxify our children (now ages three and four) and hopefully prevent them from developing cancer or other major health problems. I would like to see other parents have this same information, to know that they can have their children screened if they have been exposed to CCA treated lumber.

- Gayla Prewitt