Archive Page - 08/16/13 41 years, 2,181 covers and 55,435 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Katy Perry Doesn't Want to Talk About Russell Brand: 'My Songs Will Say What I Need to Say'
- Read the Cover Story – Tess Holliday: The World's First Size 22 Supermodel!
- Veteran Says We Need to 'Change the Conversation' Surrounding PTSD
- Stars with the Strongest Memorial Day Weekend Game
- Alison Pill Marries Joshua Leonard – See the Bride's Sweet Yellow Wedding Gown
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- April 25, 1983
- Vol. 19
- No. 16
A Toxic Chemical Poisons the Home—and the Hopes—of a New York Family
A month later Lever read a newspaper story about the dangers of an anti-termite chemical called chlordane, which, according to an Environmental Protection Agency spokesman, is used to treat about 1.5 million homes each year. Worried about the health of his pregnant wife, Dorothea, 27, and his two children, Katie, now 3, and Timothy, 15 months, Lever called the exterminator. "He said, 'Don't worry, I didn't use chlordane, I used aldrin,' " Lever remembers. "Little did we know that aldrin is worse."
Still concerned, Lever phoned the Suffolk County Health Department to inquire further. "When I told a doctor what had happened, he said, 'Leave immediately,' " Lever recalls. "He told us not to bring anything with us."
Aldrin, Lever soon learned, is similar to, but more toxic than, chlordane. Both chemicals have been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice, although their low-level long-term effects on human beings are unknown. "We don't consider this to be a major national problem," EPA spokesman Al Heier says. "We've had only about 100 illnesses related to chlordane use reported since 1966. We consider them both safe when properly applied. You have to weigh the risks and benefits. Both chemicals will effectively control termite infestation for up to 20 years."
In 1974 the Environmental Protection Agency banned most uses of aldrin in the U.S., but did not outlaw it for subsurface termite control. Lever charges, however, that the exterminator sprayed aldrin inside the house, leaving a puddle of the chemical on the basement floor. It also ran down the den walls and seeped into the rug. "I remember being concerned right after the exterminator left with how wet the rug was," Lever says. "Timothy was crawling all over the floor. This was the room the kids played in. This was where all their toys were." The exterminating company declined to respond to Lever's charges.
The Lever family left their home on Oct. 28, about a month after the spraying, and spent the next five weeks alternating between the homes of Jeffrey's and Dorothea's parents. Finally, in December, their insurance company gave the Levers enough money to rent new quarters while inspectors tested their house.
But the nightmare was not yet over. Soon afterward Dorothea miscarried. "That had never happened to me before," she says. "The doctors think it was probably caused by exposure to the chemical, but they don't know for sure." Then the children, suffering from periodic dizziness and nausea, were tested and found to have possible liver ailments. Finally, in February, the inspectors hired by the Levers' insurance company reported that the house was uninhabitable, and recommended that it—and everything in it—be destroyed. For the $80,000 house and all its contents, the Levers received $65,000 from their insurers. "I still can't believe it," says Lever. "We have nothing left."
The Levers, meanwhile, are crowded into a two-bedroom house so small that new mattresses and a crib are still stacked in the dining room. They're shopping for a new home but are finding nothing in the area they can afford. While they plan a lawsuit against Allied, they remain frightened about their future. Says Dorothea: "We're worried about our children's health—and ours."
Other families are worried, too. When the Lever story hit newspaper front pages, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was deluged with calls. "In one week we got more than 3,000 complaints and inquiries about pesticides used in the home," said regional DEC director Don Middleton. "We have a major problem on our hands."
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!