First and foremost, the Ecology Center demands that the Snyder Administration end lead poisoning in Michigan, starting in Flint, and take action to fully fund public health services across the state. The Flint water crisis has drawn much public attention on the critical problem of lead, one that continues to jeopardize our future by poisoning so many of Michigan’s children.
Michigan is the fifth worst in the nation for the number of lead poisoned children according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many of Michigan's largest cities have alarmingly high percentages of children exposed to lead at levels higher than those benchmarked for concern by the CDC. In a 2014 study, 5 to 20 percent of 1-2-year-olds in Highland Park, Hamtramck, Muskegon, Detroit, Jackson, Saginaw and Grand Rapids were found to have troubling elevated lead levels. Michigan’s future is intimately tied to the future of its children. We simply cannot succeed as a state if we are poisoning such a significant percentage of children.
An Ecology Center analysis conducted in 2014 estimated annual costs of lead exposure in Michigan are more than $330 million, $145 million of those costs burdened on taxpayers (special education, lost income tax, the judicial system, etc.)
Not only do we know how to remediate homes, our analysis determined that it would be cost effective do so. The cost of abatement is estimated at $6,000 per housing unit for 100,000 most at-risk homes in Michigan. A scenario to abate all of the most at-risk homes ($600 million) would pay for itself after 3 years and thereafter a considerable return on investment.
Secondly, we support and echo the public health leaders in Flint calling for every evidence-based early intervention that helps kids thrive including universal preschool, nutrition, food security, and access to mental health services. We direly need to expand these services to all underserved areas of the State and to make Flint along with Michigan the model public health system of a thriving community. The Snyder Administration has an opportunity to elevate Michigan as a model nationally.
And, we know these interventions are cost-effective. In 2013, the Michigan Association for Local Public Health (MALPH) did a report on the Return on Investment for Local Public Health Funding. Astonishingly, the MALPH study found that for every 1 dollar invested in local public health, there is a return on investment from 2 to 1 to as high as 162 to 1. In other words, investing in local public health pays real dividends and is a wise investment in Michigan’s future.
Local public health departments are charged with the basic operations of keeping people healthy including immunizations, infectious disease control, food safety inspection, drinking water protection, and on-site sewage management. As of 1984, the state and local health departments were each required to each fund half of these services. Despite this requirement, the state has not funded local health departments at the statutorily required level in more than 15 years, leaving local health departments scrambling for funds from other sources, either through fees or from local governing entities.
While fundamentals, like drinking water protection, are vitally important for the health of our community, the State of Michigan's failure to invest in these fundamentals by not matching local funds to support this work suggests that perhaps our health is not as important to them as it should be.
Published on February 5, 2016