Sadly, Michigan was ranked the fifth worst in the nation for childhood lead poisoning in 2013 by the CDC. This is simply unacceptable. Lead poisoning is preventable yet widespread in our state, with some cities, such as Hamtramck, reporting 20% of their children as suffering from lead poisoning. While the Flint Lead Crisis brought this issue to the forefront of national scrutiny, lead poisoning has long been a serious issue in our nation. Although we must remain vigilant in preventing another Flint Lead Water Crisis, the majority of lead poisoning is caused by our aging housing stock, marred by lead paint. The Ecology Center has worked on ending lead poisoning for many years, first attacking the problem through presenting the case for lead abatement and remediation as a sound economic investment through three reports released since 2010 in partnership with an economist from the University of Michigan.
Our most recent report, The Costs of Lead Exposure and Remediation in Michigan, found that while lead poisoning is a massive public health issue, it is not insurmountable. There are cost-effective steps that we can take immediately. We found that a $600 million investment by the state can and should be used to remediate lead in Michigan’s 100,000 most at risk homes, and would likely reduce lead in children by 70%. This would free up money that Michiganders needlessly spend on the aftermath of an inexcusable public health crisis. The investment would return $190 million annually, $78 million of which would be saved by Michigan taxpayers.
Now is the time to elevate lead poisoning of Michigan’s children to the critical public health problem that it is. There is a moral and economic imperative to address the poisoning of so many vulnerable children in our state. Michigan lawmakers should not rest when there are cost-effective solutions for an entirely preventable problem.
Our work ending lead poisoning does not stop with report releases. In June of 2016, Governor Snyder created the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board by Executive Order to address childhood lead poisoning in Michigan in the wake of the Flint water crisis. Seven medical, advocacy, and policy experts, including Ecology Center Deputy Director Rebecca Meuninck, were appointed by Governor Snyder and served on the Board. Board members quickly agreed that addressing lead poisoning in Michigan was insufficient, and decided to tackle the larger issue of lead exposure in our state. On November 17th, the Board released its report, “A Roadmap to Eliminating Child Lead Exposure,” which calls for a comprehensive, state-wide plan to end child lead exposure, with areas of high lead exposure given highest priority. Board members are optimistic that Michigan has the knowledge and tools to end this completely preventable public health crisis.