When the Flint Water Crisis made national news, it put a spotlight on lead poisoning. Lead is toxic to everyone, but the impact on children can be devastating. It undermines brain development and causes learning and behavioral problems, including aggressiveness, hyperactivity, and lethargy. It is also linked to organ damage, hearing deterioration, slow growth, appetite and weight loss, digestive problems and headaches.
Lead exposure has been a problem for decades. Over 70% of Michigan’s housing stock predates the 1978 ban on lead paint, putting millions of residents at risk of lead exposure. In fact, thousands of children under six years old have tested positive for lead poisoning, and often those most at-risk aren’t even tested.
The damage is irreversible, and the costs to families and society are astronomical.
MEC’s goal on lead poisoning is simple, but ambitious: ending childhood lead poisoning in Michigan. When foolproof testing, mitigation and abatement programs are in place, childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable. It is just a matter of political will and funding.
MEC Health Policy Director Tina Reynolds leads the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH), a coalition of health, housing, business owners, medical and environmental professionals committed to that goal.
Before the coalition formed in 2010, decades passed with no significant state funding for lead cleanup programs. Thanks to MIALSH’s advocacy, the state legislature has brought total funding to more than $6.5 million.
Through their annual Lead Education Day, the coalition shows the human face of lead poisoning by bringing impacted families to the State Capitol to tell their stories. This outreach has been critical in building the bipartisan support necessary to eradicate childhood lead poisoning.
- Institute universal lead testing for Michigan kids who are two-years-old or younger;
- Shift the burden from municipal agencies to landlords for certifying that rental units are lead safe after a tenant has a positive blood test (and increasing enforcement and penalties);
- Require point-of-sale lead inspections of older homes;
- Make Michigan the state with the strongest lead and copper rule.