Ending Lead Poisoning in Michigan

Our vision for the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board

On June 10, 2016, Rebecca Meuninck, deputy director for the Ecology Center, was appointed to the Governor’s Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board. The Ecology Center strongly advocated for this Board and we were pleased that the Administration agreed and that Rebecca would be appointed.  Rebecca shares the Ecology Center’s vision for the Board, whose first meeting is Monday, June 20th. 

Our vision for the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board

I am honored to serve alongside an extraordinary team of lead advocates who share a visionary, transformation goal for our state -- to end lead poisoning in Michigan. The all-star team includes the hero physician in Flint, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Rosalynn Bliss the mayor of Grand Rapids, Dr. Abdul El Sayed the executive director and health officer for the Detroit Health Department and other children’s health advocates.* 

The Board meets for the first time today, Monday June 20th. Our vision is for the board to forward an agenda which will make Michigan a national model and leader in protecting children from lead and eliminating this preventable scourge. 

The crisis in Flint has renewed attention on the critical issue of lead poisoning. Yet even before the Flint crisis, Michigan was ranked fifth worst in the nation for  childhood lead poisoning (CDC 2013).  Now is the time to elevate lead poisoning in Michigan to the critical public health problem that it is. While we still have communities with 17% of lead poisoned children, Michigan policymakers should not rest when there are cost-effective solutions for an entirely preventable problem.

While the world watches, our intention is to transform the story of lead in Michigan to one where we lead the world in protecting children from lead poisoning.

The state must commit to a eliminate lead from all preventable sources within a specific timeframe  - we think 10 years makes sense.  To do this, we’ll need a lot of help from every part of society, and a decade-long public commitment to the goal.

We will urge the board to review best practices nationally and internationally, and to find effective ways to eliminate lead sources in our homes, schools, and communities. 

Tackling this problem will take a multifaceted approach. We believe that administrative and legislative remedies need to be considered as well as increasing enforcement and establishing clear metrics to monitor in order to be accountable for progress. Ending lead poisoning can’t be limited to actions lawmakers in Lansing can take. The board should also consider convening other key stakeholders including leaders in healthcare, education, philanthropy, and the private and the non-profit sectors.

Opportunities and Challenges
Public awareness about lead poisoning and support for eliminating it is higher than ever in the wake of the Flint water crisis. The Governor and Lt. Governor have shown a commitment to ending lead poisoning by appointing such a strong group of children’s health advocates to the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board

We have an opportunity to influence policy like never before. While there are certainly real financial costs to eliminating lead poisoning, it is a cost effective goal (Price of Pollution 2010; Economic Impact of Lead Exposure and Remediation in Michigan 2014).  We have many allies in achieving this goal, from a diverse set of sectors including public health and healthcare, education, early childhood advocates, and families across the state. 

As we embark on this process we will keep you informed of our progress and will continue to call on you to join us in advocating for an end to lead poisoning. 

Today you can take action and call on the legislature to support policies to end lead poisoning. 

- Rebecca Meuninck, Deputy Director

* Members of the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board 
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will chair the Board, Seven gubernatorial appointees will serve along with four state department directors or their designees. The relevant departments are the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Gubernatorial Appointees: 
• Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the pediatric residency program at Hurley Medical Center in Flint. 
• Rebecca Meuninck, deputy director of the Ecology Center.
• Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, executive director and health officer for the Detroit Health Department. 
• Rosalynn Bliss, Mayor of Grand Rapids, MI
• Paul Haan, executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan.
• Riley Alley, Great Start collaborative director for St. Clair County’s Regional Education Service Agency. 
• Dr. Lyke Thompson, director of the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University.

Published on June 18, 2016