SACO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A Saco mother said Tuesday that her son's impaired cognitive functioning is a result of lead poisoning he sustained at 18 months old.
Kristy Scamman said her three-year-old son, Cooper, now has a lead level of seven micrograms per deciliter of blood. In February of 2016, doctors found a blood lead level of 28.
Effective September 19, 2016, the Maine CDC provides a full lead investigation of a child's home environment when a venous blood lead test result is less than five micrograms per deciliter.
Scamman said her son has a number of health issues, including not sleeping, eating, or digesting food well. She said his speech has also regressed, and said doctors diagnosed him with autism. Scamman believes the autism is a result of the lead poisoning.
"It's crushing to see your little guy that sick, and you can't take it away from them. You can't make it better. It was tough," said Scamman. "There were days that I would look at him and just cry because I felt so bad for everything that he was going through -- the autism, the not communicating, the stomach aches."
Doctors have not found a direct link between autism and lead poisoning, however, many of the symptoms are similar.
"He was very sick every night," said Scamman. "He would get sick even easier with common colds, the flu -- it's like the lead just attacked his nervous system and immune system, anything that was good."
Doctors reported Cooper's diagnosis to the state. Inspectors tested the apartment where Scamman lived and found a window sill in Cooper's room tested for nearly five times the toxic level of lead. Scamman and her family moved to a different apartment in the same building, one that inspectors determined safe. the lead paint that has been painted over to keep the chips from flaking off into the apartment.
"I'm constantly on edge about everything being safe for him all the time," said Scamman. "But if anything's peeling or chipping it's not safe, especially if he's autistic."
Young children, and many who have autism, tend to put their mouths on surfaces and items. Scamman worries those could have lead dust, which the CDC reports is the most common way children get lead poisoning.
The Maine CDC reports that half of all children poisoned by lead in Maine live in rental housing.
The CDC says parents can fight lead poisoning in kids with a diet high in certain vitamins, such as iron, calcium, and Vitamin C.
Scamman said a similar vitamin-filled drink has helped her son.
"He's going to school now. He's on the right path to become a successful adult and that's all I want for him because I love him so much."
There is more information for parents, renters, landlords, and property owners through both the Maine CDC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.