News10NBC Investigates: Little girl with autism moves to Rochester for help, gets lead poisoned in rental home

Berkeley Brean
Updated: December 12, 2019 06:51 PM
Created: December 12, 2019 06:36 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A little girl in Rochester just turned three years old Wednesday. 

The one thing her mother wanted to get her was closer to people who can help her. Instead, she moved into a home that only made her daughter sicker. 


When she felt like she ran out of options, she called News10NBC who took the source of the little girl's illness to the county's top doctor. 

Not only is Nadia Brown, 3, living with severe autism, she's now also lead poisoned. And her mother says the tests show that poison started when she moved here. 

"It can be miserable at times because at some points I don't know what to do," Lynneesa Mitchell said. "And that makes me feel like a failure as a mother sometimes. And that hurts."

In October 2018, Lynneesa Mitchell moved from Elmira to Rochester so Nadia could be close to her specialists at URMC. 

But inspection reports obtained by News10NBC show the subsidized duplex Mitchell moved into was wrought with violations including lead paint. Last February, Mitchell says Nadia stopped eating.

By June, a test showed Nadia's lead level was a 10. Five is considered "elevated" by the Centers for Disease Control.

Mitchell says an inspection by Monroe County found lead paint along window sills, door jams and in the bathroom. 

In late June, the county sent Mitchell's landlord a letter detailing lead violations, and in July, the county sent a letter to Mitchell saying it's not paying her rent because of the violations.

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Did Nadia have any lead in her blood when you moved here?"

Lynneesa Mitchell, daughter lead paint poisoned: "No."

Brean: "How do you know that?"

Mitchell: "I got her tested before I moved here to Rochester, New York."

Last year, the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning said the number of children testing positive for lead in Rochester and Monroe County is down. But they say it's because fewer children are getting tested. 

Two months ago, the New York State Health Department lowered the definition of "elevated lead" from 10 to 5 so that county health departments can investigate more cases.
Brean: "Since October, what are you finding?"

Dr. Michael Mendoza, Commissioner of Public Health: "We're doing more inspections."

Doctor Michael Mendoza is the commissioner of public health in Monroe County. He says there are 20 inspections a month now, an increase of more than 100%. 

He showed a chart which says 30 years ago, 30% of children tested in Monroe County tested positive for lead. 

Today it's 3%. 

"Now the real challenge is how do we keep going?" Dr. Mendoza said pointing to the chart. "What can we do to bring this number down even further?"

Monroe County issued 150 notice letters to homeowners this year. The notice letters are specifically about lead paint violations. 

"It's already hard enough that she was trying to live a normal life and now this is happening," Mitchell said. "And as a mother, it's very, um, it's very heartbreaking."

Mitchell says Nadia was re-tested recently and says her lead level dropped to 6. Dr. Mendoza says he sees cases where the number is 80. 

In August, a new owner bought the property where Mitchell lives. Later that month, Mitchell received a letter from the county saying the violations were fixed and her rental-assistance was restored.

If you are a parent, grandparent or guardian and want your house inspected for lead, call 585-428-6520. 

For information on how to protect children, homes and our community from the effects of lead poisoning, call 585-224-3125. 

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