With encouragement from Lt. Gov. Calley, advocates rally in Lansing to end lead poisoning
About 60 environmental advocates, public health professionals, lead-abatement contractors and other citizen-lobbyists gathered in Lansing on Wednesday for the fifth annual Lead Education Day organized by the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes (MIALSH). MEC Health Policy Director Tina Reynolds is coalition manager for MIALSH.
The group met with 40 legislators or their staff members to provide updates on MIALSH's policy priorities for addressing the continuing statewide lead crisis. Among those priorities are:
- Universal lead testing for all Michigan children at ages 1 and 2. In 2015 at least 4,791 Michigan kids had an elevated blood lead level. But the true total is likely much higher, because only about 20 percent of the state's children under 6 years old are currently tested for lead exposure.
- Switching the burden of proof in rental housing so that landlords must demonstrate their property has been made lead-safe if the rental unit has previously poisoned a child. Today, some rental properties repeatedly poison the children of tenant after tenant. The majority of Michigan's lead-poisoned children live in rental housing.
- Continuing state general fund support for the lead program to ensure state priorities and federal match requirements can be met. Last year, MIALSH succeeding in maintaining funding at $1.75 million for the 2017 budget, bringing the total funding for the past four budget cycles to more than $6.5 million. Before MIALSH formed in 2010, there hadn't been significant state funding for lead cleanup programs in decades.
Some of those recommendations-which focus on primary prevention of lead poisoning-align with MIALSH priorities, Calley noted. For instance, the board reported that rental properties represent a major opportunity to better protect Michigan children. He also said the state could pursue policies to take advantage of home sales as an opportunity for action to make homes lead-safe. Calley added that there are opportunities to weave lead abatement projects together with energy efficiency upgrades, noting for instance that windows are usual suspects for both containing lead-based paint and causing energy-wasting drafts.
Calley said that Gov. Rick Snyder later this week would announce additional steps he's taking to protect Michigan families from lead poisoning, and emphasized that the ultimate aim is to end lead poisoning altogether in Michigan-a daunting goal, but one that is achievable.
"It's not called the lead poisoning reduction board, it's the lead poisoning elimination board," he said. "It's still realistically a generational issue. But why not start now, and start big?"