National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) happens each year toward the end of October. This year, the Ecology Center brought together lawmakers, impacted families, health professionals, and environmental organizations to discuss the best policies and practices to prevent exposure to lead and keep kids healthy and safe. On October 22nd, 2019 in Lansing, the Ecology Center and Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan hosted a Lunch and Learn to provide legislators with preventative strategies and solutions for ending lead poisoning.
The Ecology Center and its partners are calling for state funding and protective policies that provides adequate testing, regulation, and preventative measures. The policies that we called for would protect children from lead exposure and make sure that all young children are tested so that they get the services they need if they are lead poisoned. The proposed policies would:
- Require universal testing for all 1 & 2 year olds in Michigan
- Require a lead test at the sale or transfer of property
- Require landlords to prove they made their property lead safe after a child has been poisoned in their unit.
- Require landlords to disclose and fix lead risks before renting a unit.
- Require filtered drinking water stations be installed in all schools and daycares and appropriate funding for this.
- Fully fund the lead poisoning prevention education and abatement efforts lead by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
- Fully fund the MI Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission for their work on primary prevention and innovation grants.
Lead Poisoning- A Statewide Issue
Lead is toxic to our brains and nervous systems. Even very low levels of lead exposure can reduce a child’s IQ and cause problems with adaptivity and problem solving skills. Lead poisoning has many long term effects, which may begin with reduced verbal skills and academic performance during early development and youth.
Lead poisoning is a statewide problem. In 2016, at least 5,521 children in Michigan had elevated blood lead levels. The actual number of children exposed to lead is unknown, since many children are still not tested. Michigan is only testing about 20% of our kids under 6 for lead. We are calling on the legislature to test all one and two year olds in Michigan for lead to make sure kids aren’t falling through the cracks.
Lead poisoning is also very costly to Michigan families and taxpayers. Our studies on the cost of lead exposure in Michigan have found that lead exposure costs Michiganders at least $270 million a year. Those costs come in the form of healthcare related costs to treat lead poisoning, increased special education costs, increased costs of lead-associated crime and juvenile delinquency, and reduced lifetime earnings.
While lead exposure remains a threat and persists throughout our state, there is a solution. If our government would listen to health and environmental advocates and prioritize Michigan families’ health and safety by taking the necessary actions listed above– we can end lead poisoning. Until then, Ecology Center and its allied organizations will continue to advocate for healthy people and a healthy planet.
What can you to reduce lead exposure in your home?
In Michigan, approximately 70% of the housing stock was built before 1978, the year lead based paint was banned from use on homes in the US. This aged housing stock increases the chances of having lead-based paint in Michigan homes. When old paint cracks and peels, it creates a dangerous dust that can be inhaled or consumed. As a result, children must be kept away, hands and toys must be washed frequently, and the peeling paint must be covered. To avoid lead contaminated dust it’s recommended that you wet mop, dust with wet cloths as often as possible. You can also reduce lead exposure by frequently wash children’s faces, hands, and toys. It is also recommended that children eat a diet rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C to help them if they are exposed to lead. Finally, extra caution is needed when homes are being remodeled or repaired since home repairs further increase the risk of exposure to lead dust when sanding or scraping is involved.
Lead can also be found in the soil and in bare patches of dirt around the home. This increases the risk of lead poisoning for young children who often play outside. This also presents the potential for lead to be tracked inside the house by people and pets. One possible solution is changing the location of domesticfood gardens. People should maximize the distance between food gardens and hazards such as: roads, driveways, and old -painted structures. Using organic compost and maintaining the soil’s pH level between 6.5 and -7.5 can make plants less likely to take up lead that is in the soil. At the Lunch and Learn event, Ecology Center Deputy Director, Rebecca Meuninck recommended the avoidance of exposure to lead-contaminated soils. Children should not play in bare soil and shoes should be removed before entering the house, as it is possible they are carrying lead-exposed soil. Bare soil should also be covered by sod or a thick layer of mulch. These solutions are only temporary so it’s important to monitor these areas and add more mulch or sod if areas get a lot of wear and tear.
Even the water running through homes may contain lead. Lead can be found in the pipes carrying water, household brass plumbing fixtures, chrome-plated brass plumbing fixtures, and welding solders and pipe fittings older than 1986. One solution to this problem includes the use of filters such as a carbon block filter, which can be put on faucets. Look for filters that are certified to meet NSF/ANSI Certification 53 to remove lead. And remember, boiling water does not reduce lead levels and can concentrate lead already present in drinking water.
Finally, you can join the Ecology Center and our partners in calling on lawmakers to pass the policies we mentioned above to remove lead hazards from home, schools, and daycares before children are poisoned. Contact Rebecca Meuninck to learn more at [email protected] and read more about our lead work at https://www.ecocenter.org/ending-childhood-lead-poisoning