Family suffers from arsenic poisoning
Nightmare on McGuire Lane

Wanda Burnett

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 close.

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 couldn’t 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 someone’s 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 grandchildren’s 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 they’ve 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 couldn’t 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 family’s lives forever. They tell The Versailles Republican they take multiple medicines and still aren’t sure what the end results will be.

The McGuires can’t 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 labeled.

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 we’re 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.

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.