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Love of Place: Keeping Our Children Safe

When she purchased her Northside home years ago, Syeisha Byrd knew there was a possibility that it had lead paint, as do many of the aging homes in Syracuse. So to keep her children safe, she took several proactive steps to ensure the house was lead safe before moving in.

A few years after having the house lead abated, Byrd was shocked when she received a phone call from her children’s doctor.

“They had just been in for a routine appointment and were being called back in because lead was detected in their blood tests,” said Byrd. “I panicked. I knew what lead poisoning was and how severely it could impact them for the rest of their lives.”

It was later determined that when renovations were done on Byrd’s home, there had been one major, potentially life-altering flaw: the front porch carpeting. It is recommended that carpeting installed over lead paint be rubber-sealed. Byrd’s carpeting had been breathable, allowing lead particles to enter the air from the high traffic of playing children.

Thankfully, Byrd’s children had lead levels that were caught in time and do not seem to have caused long-term effects on their development. She knows, though, that many other families in her neighborhood have not been so lucky. This ignited a spirit in her to help prevent this from happening to other innocent children. She is now working as a volunteer for Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT).

TNT received a grant through the Community Foundation’s LeadSafeCNY initiative to conduct a grassroots communications effort to educate residents on the dangers of lead poisoning and the actions they should take to make their homes safer. Byrd will be assisting in the effort. She and fellow volunteers are working closely with Syracuse residents to facilitate lead testing and provide resources on its remediation.

“This effort is sorely needed because people forget how dangerous lead can be,” said Byrd. “We’re going to continue to have this problem until everyone becomes more knowledgeable on how to make their homes lead safe.”

For Byrd, joining forces with TNT is a way to give back to the community that she loves.

“I want to be more involved so that my children can happily live and grow here,” said Byrd. “I want to make Syracuse a better place to live.”