Great Lakes Lead Elimination Network

Act to End Lead Poisoning

The Great Lakes Lead Elimination Network (GLLEN) formed in 2018. We are a coalition of Great Lakes states working to eliminate lead poisoning. GLLEN is open to non-profit partners with a focus on lead prevention and elimination in the Great Lakes states. GLLEN currently includes non-profit partners from Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

GLLEN works to eliminate lead hazards in homes, schools, work places, and other areas. We coordinate our efforts to engage with decision-makers regarding local and state-level policy. We share resources in order to educate the public about how to avoid lead.

Lead in Great Lakes States

GLLEN considers all US States bordering the Great Lakes to be part of the Great Lakes region, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. The Great Lakes region is home to America’s industrial heartland. For hundreds of years, goods and the parts to make them have been transported up and down the connected waterways. The area’s industry and workers served as the arsenal of democracy during World War II. But, with that honor comes industrial pollution that is both historical and on-going. We boast some of the first paved roads in the country. But, this also means we have lead in our soil from cars and leaded gasoline. Our major cities were hubs of activity and elegance and feature 100-year-old architecture. But, this also means that most of our houses were built before 1978 and have leaded paint. It means that lead may also be a concern in schools, apartment buildings, municipal buildings, and more. It means that water supplies could be flowing through lead pipes or pipes with lead connections. Industrial pollution, old housing, and infrastructure that needs repair or replacement are all closely linked to high rates of elevated blood lead levels.

Health Impacts of Lead

There is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead poisoning damages the brain and nervous system, harming development and causing life-long health problems. Exposure to lead is associated with:

  • ADHD
  • Hypertension 
  • Kidney damage
  • Poor development 
  • Decreased IQ
  • Reduced ability to pay attention
  • Decreased academic achievement
  • Poor adaptivity and problem solving skills

The Cost of Lead Poisoning

The health impacts of lead are also costly. According to Altarum’s Value of Lead Prevention tool, the total lifetime economic burden of childhood lead exposure in the Great Lakes states is $22.9 billion. This includes costs of reduced lifetime productivity; increased healthcare, education, and social assistance spending; and early death.

Note on COVID-19

As we manage the many challenges brought on by the coronavirus, families are spending more time in and around their homes, which can be sources of lead poisoning. Children spending more time inside lead-contaminated homes increases their exposure to this harmful neurotoxicant.

Staff from Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan hold virtual meetings with parent leaders.

Continuing our Work in the Time of COVID-19

When the coronavirus (COVID-19) hit the US in early 2020, our partners--like everyone else--had to adjust to working under ‘new normal’ conditions. Due to the dispersed geographic nature of GLLEN, most of our work as a coalition was already done remotely. However, our partners haven’t let this hinder their work eliminate lead poisoning across the Great Lakes states. 

In March 2021, the Ecology Center, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, DLEAD, and other Michigan organizations began a virtual 8-month training program for families of lead poisoned children. The training--held entirely online--brings lead-impacted families together to learn, connect, and advocate for healthier communities. Participants were able to virtually meet with other families, health experts, environmental experts, and lawmakers throughout the training. 

Staff from Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan hold virtual meetings with parent leaders.

Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan transformed the Parents for Healthy Homes’ annual Strong Families Celebration--an event celebrating families for their hard work--to comply with COVID restrictions and hold a safe event. The celebration was organized as a drive-through event with masked staff working outside to bring cheer and treats to families. 

Starting in late 2020, the Ecology Center began holding virtual educational meetings with state political candidates. Since then, Ecology Center has continued holding educational sessions with state policymakers on a variety of topics, including childhood lead poisoning. 

In early 2020, parent leaders working with Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan made ‘thank you’ videos for community leaders and partners--something they would typically do in person. The video was uploaded to YouTube and shared with the leaders and partners. 

A ‘thank-you’ video made by Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan for a local community leader.