Lead Poisoning

Ending childhood lead poisoning -- it’s one of Michigan Environmental Council’s boldest goals. It’s also entirely achievable.

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.

Our Work

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.

MIALSH Policy Priorities

  • Require universal lead testing for ALL Michigan children aged 1 and 2.
  • Have the state of Michigan assume responsibility for the federal RRP enforcement program which requires contractors to have a lead safe certification to do work on pre-1978 homes.
  • Require an inspection for lead paint, soil, dust and water before the sale or transfer of property built before 1978 intended for occupancy.

Other Important Efforts

  • Ensure Michigan’s federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) match is met each fiscal year to support our state’s lead programs and push for sustainable state lead program funding.
  • Encourage governmental units (City and County) to enact rental certification legislation such that lead hazards must be identified and disclosed prior to occupancy.
  • Shift the burden of proof to landlords to submit documentation that lead hazards have been abated and indexed to CDC guidelines during enforcement proceedings and as per the Landlord Penalty Law.
  • Push to validate “relocation” as an abatement strategy (both emergency and long term) through pilot funding and policy change.
  • Support efforts to train, recruit and identify lead abatement professionals and contractors to help fill our state’s acute shortage.
  • Support and align with the Michigan Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission (CLEEC) in their policy development, education and work to maintain and enhance their funding.

Resources & Analysis