The hidden dangers of home renovation
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Tamara Elise Rubin
Executive Director, Lead Safe America Foundation
Tamara Rubin was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1969. Her family soon relocated to the historic (founded in 1635!) town of Hingham, MA, where she spent her youth.
Growing up in Hingham created an indelible impression on Tamara, instilling in her an appreciation for historic architecture and — thanks to a high school program in which the students helped with work “preserving” (read: stripping and removing layers of old paint and wall paper!) some of Boston’s oldest historic residences — she developed a passion for architectural integrity and environmentally safe-practices in renovating historic structures.
After high school, Tamara spent the summer riding her bike 2,400 miles around Europe and then moved to New York City to study stage-acting (with Broadway’s Circle In The Square and the Experimental Theater Wing.) In 1991 she received a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of The Arts. Through NYU she spent a semester at the Theatre du Soliel in Paris—and also attended summer semesters at Skidmore and at Dartmouth.
Always passionate about the health and well-being of children, Tamara supported herself through college (1987-1991) by babysitting and nannying for many of the young families within the burgeoning visual arts community in Manhattan.
In 1991 Tamara moved to Marin County, California, and completed coursework for a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration at the University of San Francisco in 1994. In 1996, after giving birth to her first son, Colescott, Tamara launched a nonprofit fundraising and special event planning consultancy , so that she could work part-time and spend time with her son.
In April 2001 she married her husband, Len (they connected over bicycles, and Len’s equal passion for environmental causes —including the desire to live an intentionally car-free life in the U.S.—which prompted the small family’s move to the growing bicycle mecca of Portland, Oregon in 2002). Tamara & Len’s second son, A.J., was born in July of 2002, and Avi (son #3) was born in January of 2005. (Son #4 - Charlie Parker was born later - in 2008.)
Later in 2005, with an expanding family they decided to refinance their home so they could take some equity out and make some home improvements. Their mortgage broker advised them that, in order to get the best loan, they would need to repaint the exterior of their home so that it looked good for the appraisal. After interviewing nearly a dozen contractors, the Rubins chose a painting contractor who said he was certified in the lead-safe work practices that were required to safely repaint the exterior. Unfortunately, he lied about that—they later learned he had failed the lead-safe work practices certification exam; in fact, he used the most dangerous methods possible to prepare their home for painting (open flame torch burning, dry scraping and pressure washing)—and their children suffered acute lead poisoning as a result…
Tamara has since become an internationally recognized, award-winning lead-poisoning prevention advocate and documentary filmmaker. In 2008 she began her personal advocacy site, mychildrenhaveleadpoisoning.com. In 2011 she founded the nonprofit Lead Safe America Foundation and began working on MisLEAD.
Since then Tamara's web and media presence has become the most well-known face of consumer advocacy for the cause of lead-poisoning prevention. Her persistent message to the world: "Lead-poisoning was not 'solved' with the 1978 ban on lead in residential paint!" is being repeated now in ever widening circles. She is committed to educating every parent about this wholly preventable environmental illness, which causes permanent brain damage in young children, and still today conservatively costs the United States more than $50.9 Billion annually!