Lead’s Toxic Legacy
There is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead impairs children’s brain development and can trigger serious and irreversible learning, and behavioral problems.
We have known about the dangers of lead for a long time. However, thousands of children in Michigan and our neighboring states are still lead poisoned every year. In 2021, Michigan ranked 3rd in a nationwide assessment of blood-lead levels in children; 78% of children who were tested had lead in their blood.Even low levels of lead in the blood can damage the brain and nervous system, and in very high doses it can be fatal.
Lead poisoning is particularly high in Michigan and other states in the Great Lakes region because of our states’ high percentage of homes built before 1978 when lead paint was banned, crumbing water infrastructure, and heavy industrial production. Further, lead poisoning disproportionately impacts black and brown communities. This is due to racist housing practices in the past like redlining and ongoing disinvestment into communities of color leading to a lack of safe, healthy and affordable homes.
Ending Childhood Lead Poisoning
While lead poisoning is a massive problem it is surmountable. The Ecology Center and our allies are working to end lead poisoning through advocacy, education, and policy development.
In 2021, we launched the Lead Impacted Families Together (LIFT) program. We are working closely with 30+ lead-affected families in Michigan to empower them with tools that they may use to advocate for better lead policies at the local, state, and national level. These families are now actively sharing their stories and policy priorities with city, state, and federal representatives, and the media.
In 2018, we founded the Great Lakes Lead Elimination Network. Through this network we share best practices and policies, we educate lawmakers, and the public to collectively address lead poisoning in every state in the Great Lakes region.
Ultimately, our goal is to virtually eliminate lead poisoning in Michigan and across the region. Through our work on Michigan’s Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission, with the LIFT families, and the GLLEN partners we have created a policy roadmap to direct our path.
Our Policy Priorities
Our top priority is to ensure that every home built before 1978 is tested for lead at the time of sale or transfer of lease. The best way to protect children is to test their homes and remediate lead hazards before a child is poisoned. We also need to hold landlords accountable so that they only rent out homes that are lead-safe.
While testing homes is paramount, we cannot forget to test kids too. We’re calling for universal testing of all children at one and two years of age. This is the best way to ensure that all lead poisoned children have access to the services and resources that they need and that no child falls through the cracks.
Finally, we’re also advocating for states, like Michigan, to take over the enforcement of the federal Renovation, Repair and Painting Act to ensure that contractors are properly trained to work on homes with lead paint hazards.
Webinar: Lead as an Environmental Justice Issue