Family suffers from arsenic poisoning
Nightmare on McGuire Lane
What began as the dream of a lifetime would quickly turn into
a nightmare of gigantic proportions for the Arthur McGuire family
of South Old Michigan Road.
The McGuires purchased several acres of land with other family
members all with the intention of building homes together to be
Nestled at the edge of a wooded area with a long lane - they adequately
named McGuire Lane - their two story home would be complete as
they worked to construct most of it with their own hands.
Nearly ten years have passed since the McGuires - Arthur, or Artie
as his friends know him, and wife, Connie, began building in the
fall of 2000. They lived in a camper on the property and with
the exceptions of a few items, built the house themselves.
They used salt treated wood for a beautiful wrap around deck.
Connie would take the scraps of wood from the construction project,
some that were treated, and build campfires. The family would
gather at the fire to rest, talk about their plans and eat. At
times they would use the campfires to cook the food.
Shortly after beginning construction some family members became
ill and were taken for medical treatment. The family continued
to build and they also continued to experience unexplained illnesses.
By July of 2001, Artie became increasingly sicker and eventually
went to the doctor, who couldnt find the cause.
October of the same year brought the family more physical illnesses
leaving Artie on 24-hour care. He said he thought he was dying,
but, had no explanation for his symptoms which ranged from headaches
to severe medical issues that debilitated him.
Artie and Connie experienced multiple medical issues as well as
other family members. Artie had to leave his job where he made
good money and both he and his wife were disabled.
The Ripley County Health Department became involved along with
the Indiana State Board of Health. They took several samples in
and around the home that showed high levels of arsenic.
Artie noted that they had found several dead animals - wildlife
and pets - since they began building. Several dead boring bees
were tested with the results being high levels of arsenic.
The McGuires told The Versailles Republican they never dreamed
the treated wood they were using was the cause of their sickness.
They began to search for answers and what they found really shocked
and scared them.
There were no warnings on the treated wood they purchased and
no way to differentiate between treated and untreated wood by
simply looking at it. The McGuires called the retailer in September
2003, where the wood was purchased, the manufacturer of the wood,
and the chemical company, who all assured them there was no problem,
according to Artie.
Finally in late 2006 doctors ran tests for arsenic poisoning and
found the McGuire family had levels that were dangerous.
In December of 2006 the McGuires received a letter from the Indiana
State Department of Health stating there was arsenic found in
several places on the McGuire property, including inside the home,
with the highest levels being found on the deck.
Wayne Peace, Environmental Health Specialist for the Ripley County
Health Department was in contact with the McGuires, who voluntarily
moved out of their home in December of 2006.
On January 12, 2007, caution tape was placed on the McGuire home
due to the arsenic levels. This was done by the Ripley County
Health Department. Later that month Artie and Connie moved into
the basement using all recommended precautions.
On June of 2007 Dr. Stephen Baker wrote his recommendation that
the McGuire family leave the house because of severe widespread
arsenic contamination and ongoing poisoning with arsenic because
of (the) treated wood disaster.
The treated lumber, known as CCA treated wood, contained toxic,
deadly and carcinogenic chemicals - chromium, copper and arsenic.
On November 7, 2008 documentation revealed that Peace talked with
a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency, Region
5, who recommended all exposed wood be covered, any entrance to
the deck should be blocked and burn piles should be blocked off
and fresh gravel spread over the driveway to prevent the arsenic
from being moved into the home, on someones shoes for example.
At that time, it was noted since the family could not afford to
leave the home, they were making it as safe as possible. Peace
noted this was done at great effort and expense to the McGuires.
The McGuires went through years of doctoring, countless time redoing
the home to make it safe enough, and spent hundreds
of hours asking, why?
They have lost not only their beautiful dream home, but nearly
lost their lives.
Both Artie and Connie told The Versailles Republican they have
permanent ongoing medical problems from the arsenic poisoning.
But, the worst part for them has been the isolation from their
family and friends.
Connie broke down and cried as she shared her sorrow of not being
able to fix Thanksgiving dinners for her family or not seeing
her grandchildrens eyes light up at Christmas in front of
the massive fireplace her sons built themselves. Our children
and grandchildren have been taken away from us, she noted.
Our lives have been taken from us, Artie said. The
couple, who have been married for 27 years, said they both want
their lives back.
The family vacated the beautiful home as if they had to leave
in the night running for their lives. The all wood flooring inside
the home that boasts cathedral ceilings and so many extra touches,
sits empty while the McGuires try to have some quality of life
in a small portion of the basement. They are limited when they
have family or friends over, they would never expose anyone intentionally
to the nightmare theyve been living for the past ten years.
I saw a guy with some pieces of cut up decking on the back
of his truck, Artie shared. He then told how he boldly went
up to the guy and struck up a conversation. Sure enough, the man
was headed for a camping trip with his family and planned to burn
the treated wood.
I couldnt stand it, Artie said. He is on a mission
to warn everyone he can about CCA treated wood and tell what happened
to his family.
The decision to build the deck has changed the course of the McGuire
familys lives forever. They tell The Versailles Republican
they take multiple medicines and still arent sure what the
end results will be.
The McGuires cant even burn the home and start fresh because
of the toxic waste it would create. Even a letter from an insurance
company stated, unfortunately, due to the current situation
with the arsenic contamination of your home, we do not have a
company that would be able to offer you coverage.
Just this summer environmental protection agency crews out of
Chicago descended on the McGuire property digging dirt and replacing
it with fresh.
The McGuires have a lawsuit pending against Ford Lumber and Building
Supply, Inc., Escue Wood Preserving, Inc. and Chemical Specialties,
Inc. in the Jefferson Circuit Court. One of their attorneys, Stephen
Caplin noted this could set a precedent on how treated wood is
The McGuires hope that above all, when the dust has settled, that
others have been made aware of the problems with salt treated
wood, and at the least it is labeled so consumers can make an
informed decision. There is a consumer information sheet retailers
should hand out when selling the wood. It has been in place since
1984 according to Artie.
However, many retailers do not abide by this and the McGuires
are afraid many others are being affected.
The CCA treated wood can still be purchased today and is still
sold as salt treated wood in some locations, according to Artie.
My concerns is that were just getting into the problem
when the older decks are being torn out, and possibly burned,
Artie noted. The burning can cause a toxic waste and that
concerns me, he concluded. For more information you can
google CCA treated wood.
WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT
Pictured above Connie and Artie McGuire look over a massive
file they have kept over the years since they were poisoned
with arsenic from treated wood they used on their deck.