Sixteen days after Tom Vasiliadis' three-year old filly became ill, Missy CCF collapsed and died.
"Nobody dies for no reason," says the long time harness racing horse owner. "You die from old age, heart failure or cancer. A three-year old filly who was healthy should never have died."
What caused the horse's death is still in question. The body was quickly buried before the cause could be determined, but paint chips and hay and soil samples taken from the Carroll County Fairgrounds could offer a clue.
An investigation by WOIO Chief Investigator Carl Monday found the fairgrounds' barns in deplorable condition, badly devoid of paint that previously peeled away from the wooden structures. Paint tests conducted at Michigan State University showed elevated levels of lead in the paint, soil and particularly, the hay.
But it wasn't just the horses and other animals that were exposed to the lead.
Like most county fairs, the one held in Carroll County every summer involves hundreds of youngsters active in the local 4-H Club. Spending up to two weeks in the stalls, feeding, grooming and occasionally, sleeping in the barns with the animals.
"I'm sitting here thinking, if my filly died of lead poisoning, what about all the children who have been in all these buildings all these years," asks Vasiliadis. "How many of them got sick?"
Dr. Dorr J. Dearborn is the Chairman of the Dept. of Environmental Health Services at Rainbow, Babies and Chlidrens' Hopsital.
He says it's unlikely any children actually ate actual paint chips, which is a good thing since a chip half the size of a fingernail could kill a child. But the Doctor says it's quite possible the children could have been in contact with paint dust, that can cause long term problems like learning disabilities and aggressive behavior.
WOIO is still checking to see who's responsible for maintenance of the barns. The 4-H program has responded to the story, saying they are "concerned to learn of the elevated lead levels and will work with the county fair Board to make sure the barns are safe."
WOIO is also checking barns at other Northeast Ohio fairgrounds to see if buildings there may also be contaminated with lead.
Meanwhile, Carroll County 4-H is contacting parents who's children may have been exposed so they can be tested.